Nothing about Shaq selecting twitter as the medium to announce his retirement on Wednesday is surprising. Seemingly everything he did since he entered the league almost twenty years ago done changed the game. Of course he’d announce his retirement on something that wasn’t even invented by the time he was a 15-year veteran of the NBA.
Which is partly why, as we look back on Shaq’s career now, there’s no real need to rehash the numbers. He won four rings, probably could have won more, but in his prime every single time he made the decision to score on somebody he could. And he would. We all know he scored a lot of points, we all know he missed a lot of free throws, we all know he grabbed a ton of boards, and we all know he finished with a few hundred more assists than anybody would think a man of his size would ever pass for.
Shaq’s career was far bigger than numbers though. His numbers were huge, but his persona dwarfed them all. From Fu Schnikens (did I spell that right?) to rapping with Biggie Smalls, to a Shaq Diesel CD that went freaking Platinum, to Kazaam, to Blue Chips, and everything in between, Shaq was larger than life. And all the while he was hilarious.
Doug Gottlieb asked the question today on his radio show after O’Neal retired, saying fill-in the blank: Shaq was _______? I thought about my answer to that question, and it’s just simply this: Shaq was the best.
He was the most dominant player I’d ever seen play in my life, but it was much more than that. He wasn’t the best in the sense that MJ was the best, or Russell was the best, or Larry was the best either. More of the classic sense; like you’re talking to your buddy who’s telling you a story about Shaq and you reply with - Shaq did that? Haha. That dude is the best!
That’s how I’ll remember Shaq, and I’m glad he stopped through Cleveland along the way.
Sure Shaq’s body didn’t hold up while a member of the Cavaliers, and he wasn’t able to deliver on that mission of winning the ring for that one guy that he talked doing so for at his introductory press conference either. But the press conference was great. It was cool to have Shaq in Cleveland, and we’d be lying if we didn’t look back and admit it was a fun time in Cleveland sports history when he was here. If only he’d arrived about five or six years earlier.
We still had fun with it though, however brief and injury riddled it ended up being. Well at least I did. Back in September of 2009, in anticipation of what his new Cavaliers’ nickname would be, I posted a list of 26 nicknames Shaq had glossed himself at one point or another over his then 16 years in the NBA Spotlight. There used to be another comment server I used here at Stepien Rules, and before I made the switch to Livefyre there were about 10 other nicknames people added. Call it a then list of 30 to be safe. Nicknames he gave himself, think about that for a second.
What person have you ever known or heard of who has successfully nicknamed himself? People do that and it sounds ridiculous. Black Mamba? Why because you say you are? Jason Terry, you’re the JET because his initials just happen to spell that? So you fly around the court after making a three because his middle name is Eugene? People just don’t get away with nicknaming themselves these days, as a society we don’t let them. It doesn’t make sense. However, we loved it when Shaq did, and he did it over and over again.
He also added on twitter that he wanted people to suggest to him what his new nickname should be, now that he’s retired. I plan to hit him with a #ShaqName “Shaq-o-Saurus Rex”. Like the Tyrannosaurus Rex, which was once the most dominant creatures on the planet and is now extinct.
As is Shaq now, from a game of basketball he once dominated as much as anybody before him and anybody after him ever will.
Job well done Mr. Diesel, sir. See you on tv Big Fella.