On Wednesday, June 1, Shaquille O'Neal announced his retirement via Twitter. And unconventional announcement for an unconventional man. Love him or hate him, Shaq is a Los Angeles Lakers legend. He was huge, larger than life, in fact, and a huge part of recent Lakers history, some good and some bad. As Dex's story over on SBNLA tells you, the Lakers wouldn't be what they are today had Shaq not come to Los Angeles in 1996. But there is more to him than basketball. As public a figure as Shaq is, there is still a lot many people don't know.
Shaq, this is your life.
Let's start with the nicknames, numerous nicknames, some he gave himself, some given to him by others. He called himself "The Big Aristotle and Hobo Master" for his composure and insights during interviews. Journalists and others called him "Shaq", "The Diesel", "Shaq Fu", "The Big Daddy", "Superman", "The Big Agave", "The Big Cactus", "The Big Shaqtus", "The Big Galactus", "Wilt Chamberneezy", "The Big Baryshnikov", "The Real Deal", "Dr. Shaq" (after earning his MBA), "The Big Shamrock", "The Big Leprechaun", "Shaqovic", and "The Big Conductor." At his official retirement press conference on June 3, Shaq retired all of them.
What else is there to know?
- He was born Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal in Newark, NJ on March 6, 1972; first and middle names combine to mean "little warrior" in Arabic
- His biological father, Joseph Toney, is an ex-convict (drug possession) who gave up his parental rights to Shaq's mother, Lucille, and stepfather, Phillip Harrison; Shaq and Toney have never spoken, even though Toney once made a public bid to be Shaq's "father"; to this day, Shaq has no interest in establishing a relationship with him
- In Newark, he spent a lot of time at the Boys and Girls Club of America shooting a basketball to stay out of trouble, even though he wasn't on a team (wonder if they got any money from "The Decision")
- At Robert G. Cole High School in San Antonio, where he spent 2 years, he led the basketball team to a 68-1 record; they won the state championship his senior year, and during the 1989 season, he grabbed 791 rebounds, a state record he still holds
- He studied business at Louisiana State University (LSU), where he became a basketball legend: two-time All American, two-time SEC player of the year, and NCAA men's basketball player of the year in 1991; he's been inducted into the LSU Hall of Fame
- He left LSU early and was picked 1st overall in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic; that summer, he worked extensively with Magic Johnson (I tried to find a picture of Shaq but I only found this skinny dude who looks kinda like him--sorry)
- His rookie season yielded 23.4 points (56.2% shooting), 13.09 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game; he was the first rookie voted an All-Star starter since Michael Jordan (1985); 1992-1993 Rookie of the Year
- In his sophomore season, he averaged 29.4 PPG and led the league in FG% with 60%; the Magic went 50-32 and made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, but were swept out of the first round by the Indiana Pacers
- In his third season, the Magic went 57-25 (that's familiar for some reason) and won their first ever playoff series against the Boston Celtics; they then beat the Chicago Bulls and the Pacers to win the Eastern Conference; however, they were swept in the 1995 NBA Finals by the Houston Rockets; Shaq averaged 28 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 6.3 APG while shooting 59.5%
- In his final season with the Magic, Shaq missed 28 games, but averaged 26.6 PPG and 11 RPG; the Magic went 60-22 and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they were swept by the eventual NBA Champion Bulls (the historic 72-10 season)
- In the summer of 1996, he joined the U.S. Olympic basketball team, and he became a free agent; the Magic offered Shaq $115MM to stay; on the first day of the Olympics, it was announced that Shaquille O'Neal was joining the Lakers for $121MM over seven years--he insisted it was a money issue (bridge #1)
- He averaged 26.2 PPG and 12.5 RPG, but missed 30 games due to injury; the Lakers went 56-26 and made the playoffs but were beaten by the Utah Jazz
- The next season, Shaq averaged 28.3 PPG and 11.4 RPG and the Lakers went 61-21, getting past the Portland TrailBlazers and Seattle SuperSonics (no chronic!) before being swept out of the Western Conference Finals by the Jazz
- Phil Jackson arrived just before the 1999-2000 season and led the Lakers to their first championship in 12 years; Shaq won his only league MVP (one vote short of a unanimous decision), his second scoring title, and his first of 3 Finals MVPs
- During the 2002-2003 season, Shaq began having trouble with his right big toe, and the constant pain caused him to limp and miss games during the season; after the season, Shaq weighed his options which included reconstructive surgery and extensive rehab; he took the summer to mull it over and had surgery just before training camp started, causing him to miss the first 12 games of the 2002-2003 season, stating, "I got hurt on company time, so I'll heal on company time." The Lakers missed the Finals for the first time in the decade.
- At the start of the 2003-2004 season, Shaq wanted a contact extension and a $30MM raise and demanded that Jerry Buss "Pay [him]!" (bridge #2) during a pre-season exhibition game in Honolulu (always the best time to show your worth); Shaq's feud with Kobe Bryant reached its zenith during this season, and even with Karl Malone and Gary Payton (who'd both signed in the off-season), the Lakers were bounced from the 2004 NBA Finals by the Detroit Pistons in five games
- Shaq demanded trade when it became clear that the Lakers' front office was not going to give him what he wanted and were going to do everything they could to keep Kobe, the younger, fitter, and more in-his-prime player of the duo; if things had gone Mitch Kupchak's way, Kobe would have spent the next number of years playing with Dirk Nowitzki while Shaq played for Mark Cuban; instead a deal was made with the Miami Heat with the Lakers getting Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant in exchange for Shaq
- In Miami, Shaq joined Dwyane Wade and the Heat made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, but lost to the Pistons in seven games (the Pistons went on to lose to the Spurs)
- In the summer of 2005, Shaq signed a 5-year $100MM extension with the Heat; the 2005-2006 season saw Stan Van Gundy resign 20 games into the season and Pat Riley take over coaching duties; the Heat went on to beat the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals, earning Shaq his fourth championship (Dwyane Wade was Finals MVP)
- After the Christmas Day Lakers-Heat match-up in 2006, Shaq called Phil Jackson Benedict Arnold (bridge #3) after he said, "The only person I've ever [coached] that hasn't been a worker ... is probably Shaq."; that season, Shaq reached 25,000 career points, but the Heat were swept out of the playoffs by the Bulls
- During the 2007-2008 season, Shaq's game continued to decline and he was more foul-plagued than ever before, fouling out of five consecutive games at one point; after 14 straight All Star appearances, he was not chosen
- The Heat were 9-37 when they traded Shaq to the Phoenix Suns in February 2008, and Shaq made his debut against the Lakers who beat the Suns 130-124--Shaq took the blame but said they would get better
- The Suns made the playoffs but were bounced from the first round by the Spurs, but Shaq said he love playing on his new team and went on to shoot barbs at the Heat organization and his former teammates; Pat Riley took exception and Shaq responded with"Fuck Pat Riley" (bridge #4)
- In 2009, he once again made the All Star team and shared MVP honors with Kobe Bryant; the Suns failed to make the playoffs, causing Shaq to miss them for the first time since his rookie season
- In June, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers where he said, "My motto is very simple: Win a Ring for the King."; things didn't work out so well there either as the Cavs were eliminated by the Celtics in the ECF
- Next stop, Boston: Shaq was acquired by the Celtics in August 2010; at his press conference he said he doesn't "compete with little guys who run around dominating the ball, throwing up 30 shots a night—like D–Wade, Kobe," and that he's only competing against Duncan: "If Tim Duncan gets five rings, then that gives some writer the chance to say 'Duncan is the best,' and I can't have that."
- Shaq missed a large part of the season with various injuries and missed all of the Celtics' first-round series against the New York Knicks, and only played 12 minutes over two games in the second round against the Heat, who eliminated the Celtics
- On June 1, he announced his retirement and made it official with a press conference on June 3
- He completed his degree at LSU in 2000, he earned an MBA online through the University of Phoenix; he is currently on track to get his PhD in Leadership and Education at Barry University
- He is an honorary U.S. Deputy Marshall, an actor and a rapper whose debut album went platinum. "What's an album", you ask, kids? Why, that's what we called them before CDs came along.
- He's trained in mixed martial arts
- He's appeared on numerous reality TV shows, including three of his own, Shaq Vs. and Shaq's Big Challenge on ABC, and Shaquille on ESPN
- In 2008, ex-girlfriend Alexis Miller filed a restraining order against Shaq, claiming he stalked and threatened her after she broke up with him
- He is on the advisory board for Tout Industries
- He was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history, the youngest player to earn the honor
- Has three sons, Myles, Shareef and Shaqir and three daughters, Taahirah, Amirah and Me’Arah with wife Shaunie, from whom he is now divorced
- Has two sisters, Ayesha and Lateefah and one brother, Jamal
- He is a Muslim
- He is listed at 7'1" and 325 pounds, making him one of the heaviest players in NBA history
Shaq was certainly the most entertaining player in the NBA, and he'll be missed by many. Enjoy the good life, Big Fella. We're sure you'll still be around...somewhere.
So, what do you know about Shaquille O'Neal?