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So long, Shaq, it's been an amazing ride
Written by Samuel Trigg on 06/02/2011
Shaquille O’Neal came to Boston hoping to add one more ring to his massive hands, to be the oversized sidekick for the Celtics Big Three.
Despite the jokes and the laughs, the Celtics front office loved the way he prepared, admitting they were surprised to see how seriously he took the effort to get back in shape. He was brought in to bang with Dwight Howard, to remind LeBron James that sometimes you have to wait almost a decade for your first title. Then, with his Kobe-tying fifth ring, he could ride off into the sunset.
That was the way it was all supposed to go down. But the basketball gods and Father Time have special rules for nobody, regardless of how charismatic and charming and well-intentioned he may be.
As Shaq hobbled from the court at American Airlines Arena in Miami, a place he once dominated with his force of will and his force of personality, he looked like an ancient warrior leaving the coliseum for the last time. In a word, he looked old.
His body had betrayed him one last time, and there would be no magical elixir or Phoenix Suns trainer that could heal him.
Shaq was an absolute game changer in every sense of the word. He brought the power game back to the low block and dominated the way Wilt Chamberlain did in his heyday. He made every press conference a must-attend. He transformed the way players interact with the media and fans. He became one of the biggest off-the-court stars in history thanks to movie roles, advertising and other cameos.
He also led teams to championships while polarizing himself, sometimes quietly and sometimes loudly, in his own locker room. He never learned how to shoot free throws, a fact that made him such a liability, his team was scared to have him catch the ball in the final minutes of big games. He likely never lived up to his potential, lacking the focus to be as dominant as could have. Put simply, Shaq was an original.
Shaq burst onto the scene from LSU already a star. After his rookie season, he not only had millions in the bank, he had already starred in a movie, one of just seven in which he’d appear during his career. By his third season, he had gone to the first of his six NBA Finals. He would eventually be the MVP in the three that he won with the Lakers and cement his place as one of the 15 best players in league history.
The big man loved interacting with fans and cracking jokes with reporters almost as much, if not more, than he liked playing hoops. Therefore it was not a surprise and touching in a way that Shaq took to Twitter to announce his retirement. With no fanfare, he posted a short video saying thanks to the fan and telling them he loved them. It was the first time any athlete had done anything like it. And, given what a trendsetter The Shaqtus is, don’t expect it to be the last time an athlete does it.
There was nobody like Shaq and there may not be another like him for quite some time. (LeBron James was in the running but The Decision kind of set him back a few years).
With his huge personality and love of the cameras, if not the game itself, we certainly have not seen the last of Shaquille O'Neal. But for now, we say so long, big fella. It’s been an amazing ride.