The biggest, meanest and self-proclaimed ‘king of social media’, Shaquille O’Neal has retired after 19seasons, four championship rings, and 28,596 points. A personality as large as his physical statue the league will sorely miss Shaq’s showmanship, charisma and playfulness.
The Orlando Magic drafted Shaquille O’Neal with the first overall selection in the 1992 NBA Draft. Standing at 7 ft 1 in(2.16m) and weighing 325pounds (147kg), Shaq was one of the heaviest and most potent forces to ever play the game. The sheer size and strength of Shaq really came to this writer when he stood next to my idol LeBron James. O’Neal dwarfed LBJ, who is known for his strength, explosiveness and muscular build, when they played together at the Cleveland Cavaliers. Shaq made everyone look small on the court, whether he was standing next to a point-guard or posting up against Dwight Howard (the man who has soccer balls for shoulder muscles), the ‘Big Diesel’ barged his way through his career to a certain Hall of Fame induction.
If we were to question his Hall of Fame nomination we could only look past his statistics and achievements, from four championships, three Final’s MVP’s, a League MVP, Rookie of the Year, astonishing 15 NBA All-Star appearances, two time NBA scoring champion, and sitting fifth in points scored in the history of the NBA, and countless other accolades and awards. But it wasn’t just what Shaq did on the court that made him a NBA sensation and global icon; it was what he did off the court.
Reflecting on his upbringing Shaq recalled his aim throughout high school and his career was to “make people remember the name Shaquille O’Neal, make people remember ‘this guy was a funny guy’, make people say ‘this was not your average superstar’, this was a regular boy in a big mans body”.
In a post-retirement interview Shaq recalled a conversation with his Dad;
“How many points have you scored?’ (Shaq’s Dad)
’28,000points, 3,000 away from Wilt Chamberlain. (Shaq)
‘You dummy, if you had of hit those free throws like I showed you to, you would’ve had 30,000points.” (Shaq’s Dad)
Shaquille O’Neal had a playfulness about him that was refreshing to the media and to all NBA fans as we got to see how much of a human such a dominant and enforcing giant could be. In the press conference he pretended to take a phone call from New York Knicks owner James Dolan, who announced earlier that the Knicks general manager and president would be let go. “You want me to come up there and apply for the New York Knicks general manager job? Sure I will be up right after the press conference,” O’Neal said.
Throughout his career Shaq gave himself plenty of nicknames, dubbing himself “The Big Aristotle”, “Shaq-Fu”, “The Big Shamrock”, “The Big Shaqtus”, “Shaq Diesel”, and “Superman”. From a career that spanned movies to rap music to dance offs and to a business PhD, “The Big Leprechaun” says that he is ‘going to miss the competition, and the chase for the ring”.
Averaging 23.7points, and 10.9rebounds a game for his career Shaq won three championships with the Lakers alongside Kobe Bryant and one with the Miami Heat. He then went to Phoenix where he tried to help Steve Nash win the elusive championship ring. After moving to Cleveland in 2009 Shaq declared his quest was “to bring a Ring to the King”, but Shaq’s endeavor and conditioning interrupted his time in Ohio. Shaq ended his career at Boston where he stated that if he was fit and healthy “we would’ve won easily”.
It wouldn’t be Shaq if he didn’t give us a nickname upon retiring, “From now on, you guys can call me ‘The Big AARP’ – Association for the Advancement of Retired Persons”. It is befitting that Shaq leaves the NBA in good hands, stating that with Kobe, LeBron, and Wade at the helm, success and highlights will surely follow. But it is to Dwight Howard that Shaq predicted outcomes by saying that, “There’s only one dominate centre left and that’s Dwight Howard. If he doesn’t win three or four championships I’ll be disappointed.” I certainly wouldn’t want to disappoint Shaq.
To his future, whether it is continuing his dominance over ‘Social Media’, into a broadcasting position, or to develop his business and brands, we know Shaq will continue to be successful. But I hope that he takes a quieter role, one that other NBA greats have done, and that is to teach the next generation of players. If I was Dwight Howard I would be paying and begging anything to get Shaq as a mentor, and hey if you don’t believe Shaq can teach Dwight anything, just check out this dance off video on YouTube.