Shaquille O'Neal was one of the greatest big men to ever play the game of basketball.
After 19 great seasons in the NBA, Shaquille O'Neal has retired from the NBA. Before retiring Shaq was the oldest player in the NBA at 39 years old. Shaq will go down in the books as one of the greatest True Centers in NBA history. He won four championships, an MVP in 2000, and NBA Finals MVP three straight years with the Lakers.
In the 1992 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic selected Shaq with the first pick. Him and Penny Hardaway formed a good duo in Orlando. During his rookie season he averaged 23 points, close to 14 rebounds, and three and a half blocks. He would go on to win Rookie of the Year, and even be named to the All-Star team.
In his second season Shaq and Penny helped bring Orlando to it's first playoff appearance in franchise history in 1994 with a 50-32 record.
In this third and arguably best season with he Magic, Shaq finished second in MVP voting. He led the NBA in scoring that season and helped the Magic past the Bulls and Pacers in the playoffs, to lead them to the NBA Finals. In the finals though Hakeem Olajuwon and the Rockets took control and helped sweep the Magic.
In the offseason of 1996, Shaq switched coasts and moved to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers. After the Lakers drafted Kobe Bryant many predicted that the two would win a few rings with the Lakers.
After getting beaten by the Jazz and Spurs early in Shaq's tenure with Los Angeles, Shaq helped lead the Lakers to three straight championships. Shaq dominated and posted the highest scoring average for a center in NBA history, which is more than Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bill Russell.
The three rings he won with the Lakers (2000-2002) would be his only with the team. Soon after their winning season Shaq and Kobe started to fight. The two would get into heated arguments. After losing the 2004 NBA Finals to the Detroit Pistons, Shaq was finished Los Angeles, and headed for Miami.
After taking his talents to South Beach, he was paired with Dwayne Wade, who was in his second year with the team. Wade was one of the quickest and energetic players in the league.
The two would go onto win the NBA Finals in their first year together, despite dropping the first two games of the series against the Dallas Mavericks. That would be their only championship together.
After Miami, Shaq would go on to play for three more teams. He made quick stops in Phoenix, Cleveland, and Boston before retiring. Ever since "The Diesel" left LA, his stats declined.
So how will you remember Shaq?
Will you remember him for his attributes on or off the court?
Will you remember him for his dominance in the late 1990's and early 2000's? What about his three-peat with Kobe? His terrible free throws? Will you remember Shaq for his beef with Kobe (no pun intended), or will you remember him for being able to win a ring without Kobe, in Miami?
Will you remember Shaq for being one of the greatest centers in NBA history? Will you remember him for not being able to say good-bye earlier?
Will you remember Shaq for his attributes off the court?
Will you remember Shaq for his other profession, rapping? Will you remember the big fella for earning an MBA or becoming a cop? What about all of his charities?
Or will you remember Shaquille O'Neal for his nicknames.
"Shaq", "The Diesel", "Superman", "The Big Shaqtus", "The Big Aristotle", "The Big Shamrock", and many other names were affiliated with O'Neal.
Whatever way you remember Shaq, just remember his impact to the game. He was one of the few players to ever bring down the hoop. He had a lifetime average of 23.7 points per game, and would be much higher had be retired earlier. He also averaged close to 11 rebounds per game. His days in Orlando and Los Angeles were some of the greatest.
The 7'1, 324 machine is finally saying good-bye from the game he loved. A future Hall of Famer, Shaq was one of the best true centers the NBA has ever seen.