When Shaquille O’Neal decided to call it quits last week, he ended an era of basketball that was yet to be seen during the modern age. He announced his retirement via Twitter after a heralded 19-year career.Big Aristotle. Shaqtus. Diesel. Wilt Chamberleazy. However you affectionately refer to Shaquille O’Neal, one must agree that he has had a BIG impact on the NBA since stepping his size 22 shoes on the scene.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar claimed Shaq’s back-to-the-basket play was the last of a dying breed.
When O’Neal came into the league, most probably couldn’t fathom how dominant the center would really be.
He won the Rookie of Year in 1992 and led the Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995. He went to the Lakers and led them to four straight Finals appearances, winning three consecutively. Then, Shaq won another ring in Miami.
He did emerge on the scene from LSU looking like an unseen specimen from down under, but who could ever imagine?
In his first season in Los Angeles, Shaq averaged 26 points per game while notching 38 minutes per game. Shaq averaged his highest point total in his career during the 2000 campaign, notching 29.7 points per night and leading the Lakers to their first of three back-to-back championships.
However, after losing in the 2003 Finals, coupled with a dwindling relationship with Kobe Bryant, O’Neal left Los Angeles and took his talents to South Beach to join Dwayne Wade (sound familiar?)
Shaq had many memorable moments during his career. Personally, the one moment that sticks out to me is Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals. The Lakers had been trailing all game and started to make their usual fourth quarter comeback, led by Bryant and O’Neal. With 43 seconds left, Bryant crossed over to the right and threw an alley-oop to O’Neal, which he scored and sealed a victory and ensured a trip to the Finals.
So goodbye, Big Shaq. Thank you for all the memorable memories, pranks, nicknames, and outfits. You definitely made the NBA a better place with your random acts of Shaq-ness.