One of the NBA’s greatest players and entertainers called it a career on June 1st as the 7-foot-1 Shaquille O’Neal retired after 19 seasons.
The 39-year-old O’Neal announced his retirement to the world on Twitter and posted a link to a video. He kept it sweet and simple by thanking the fans and saying he was about to retire.
While O’Neal had his detractors, his numbers back up his supporters. Even though he took a bit of a physical beating on many nights, he finished his career with some fine statistics. These include career averages of 23.7 points per game as well as 10.9 rebounds and a total of 2.3 blocks a game. His shooting wasn’t that bad either at 58 percent from the field. His free-throw shooting was pretty brutal though, at just 52.7 percent. In all, he’s number five on the list for all-time NBA scoring, number 12 for in rebounds and second when it comes to field goal percentage.
Even though he won the rookie-of-the-year award in 1992-93, O’Neal was arguably overlooked on several occasions by the league he so proudly represented. He only won the NBA’s regular season MVP award once. But he was just as good as some famous centers before him such as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon.
It wouldn’t have shocked anybody if he was also honored with the MVP award for any season between 1998-99 and 2002-03. He also had a great year in 2004-05. O’Neal was one of those rare players who could elevate their games when the post season kicked in and he proved this by capturing the MVP award three times in the finals. O’Neal was named an NBA all-star 15 times, won the championship four times and the scoring title twice and was pretty graceful at running up and down the court for such a big and powerful man.
O’Neal was also quite popular off the basketball court as he dabbled in rap music and acting. Millions of people who weren’t basketball fans knew who he was and he’s still seen today on quite a few television commercials.
If there was an area he could have improved upon it was probably the way left his teams when joining a new club. There are still thousands of fans in Orlando, Los Angeles, and Miami who aren’t too happy with him.
Of course, an athlete is only at their peak for so long and O’Neal’s skills eroded over time, especially when playing in Boston, Cleveland, and Phoenix. He was still an impact player though and when he played 20 or more minutes this season Boston went 21-4.
O’Neal will definitely be headed to the Hall of Fame someday and the NBA won’t quite be the same after almost two decades with him on the court.