Shaq heads to retirement with a laugh

That’s the nickname Shaquille O’Neal coined for himself as he formally
announced his retirement at his Windermere, Florida home Friday.

O’Neal had posted a short video on his Twitter feed Wednesday to break the
news, but made it official at Friday’s press conference.

“Father Time has finally caught up with Shaquille O’Neal,” he said.

The announcement was the final step of his standout 19-season career. O’Neal,
39, spent this past season with the Celtics, but was limited to 37 games
because of injuries. He didn’t play between February 1 and April 3 because of
the strained Achilles, then injured his right calf just 5 1/2 minutes into his
return. The center then played just 12 minutes in two playoff games.

But he leaves the NBA as one of the best players and big men in league
history.

O’Neal ranks fifth all-time in points (28,596), and won four NBA
championships, three NBA Finals MVP awards, two scoring titles and one league
MVP.

He went out as only he can.

O’Neal, dressed in a three-piece suit and pink tie and sitting at a table with
his LSU coach, Dale Brown, began the press conference with a speech full of
thanks, jokes, and moments of honesty.

He appeared nervous as he flipped through a series of index cards, but was
still vintage Shaq.

Evidence? Moments after starting the press conference, he accepted a cell
phone and, with deadpan expression, pretended that the Knicks wanted to
interview him for their open general manager position.

He thanked his father, mother and children, doing so with an equal mix of
earnestness and laughter.

He thanked his father for taking in him and his mother, thanked his mother for
sneaking him milk and cookies “after daddy spanked me,” and thanked his
children for putting up with his schedule.

“And yes,” O’Neal said, “daddy will continue to take you to Toys ‘R’ Us now
that he’s retired.”

O’Neal also thanked all six teams he played for, the fans and his coaches —
particularly Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers, and Brown, who he said “gave me the
best three years of my life.”

While O’Neal’s NBA career was sometimes marked by controversy and
contentiousness within his own team, he was full of thanks Friday.

“I’m going to miss the competition, the camaraderie, the friendship, the fans,
joking with the media,” O’Neal said. “And I’m really going to miss the free
throws.”

O’Neal, a 52.7-percent free throw shooter, was also thankful for the doors his
career opened.

O’Neal helped the United States win a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games,
and said because of basketball, he has created business opportunities,
lifelong friendships and “acted in award-wining movies such as ‘Kazaam.'”

O’Neal, who has also been involved in law enforcement, also said he’s working
on a doctorate degree in human resource development at Barry University.

But that’s Shaq, basketball’s Renaissance man, a colorful player who
accumulated nearly as many nicknames as points — The Big Aristotle, Shaq Fu,
The Big Shamrock, The Big Cactus, The Diesel, “and finally, the one and only,
original, never to be duplicated or replicated Superman,” O’Neal said.

He retired them all Friday. But he filled that void with a suitable
alternative.

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