Yesterday’s press conference regarding Shaquille O’Neal’s retirement reminded basketball and sports fans across the world what Shaq meant to the game. In my opinion, yesterday’s conference was one of the best retirement announcements to occur in a long time. The mood of the press conference matched the personality of “The Big Diesel.” First, unlike anything I have seen, the conference took place at Shaq’s house in Orlando, which looking back shouldn’t be surprising since Shaq has always been welcoming and approachable especially with the media. Second, the conference celebrated his career and the impact that he had on the game, providing a fun and loose mood that even made light of the approximately 50% of free throws that he missed throughout his career. Then, there was the entertainment factor that is expected at this point whenever a microphone and Shaq are involved.
Shaq’s retirement has allowed his fans and the basketball community to look back on his highly successful nineteen year career. I can give you his stats and the numbers that he put up, but like many of the greats of the game, that doesn’t seem fitting when talking about his overall impact to the NBA. Shaq drove people to watch him play not only to witness his remarkable talent and dominance, but by providing entertainment to thrill the audience. Shaq’s performance on the court made him great, but his ability to connect to the fans made him one of the greats of all-time.
For Lakers fans and most Shaq fans, his time with the Lakers will be the epicenter for defining his career. For a lot of Lakers fans, Shaq’s dramatic departure from Los Angeles in 2004 drove away their support of him. Joining the Lakers’ rival, the Boston Celtics, at the end of his career didn’t help this feeling. However, no Lakers fan can dismiss the enormous impact Shaq had to the Lakers, especially during their three-peat championship run from 2000-2003. When Shaq joined Kobe, a legendary pairing was formed in the NBA. Even though Kobe and Shaq’s relationship feel a part in a horrible fashion, time has seemed to help heal this relationship and the two firmly respect each other today.
Just as fans choose not to remember Michael Jordan’s days with the Washington Wizards and instead focus on his remarkable stint with the Chicago Bulls, fans will focus on Shaq’s tenure starting with the blossoming of his greatness with the Orlando Magic into an extraordinary successful run with the Los Angeles Lakers. Shaq is considered to be one of the best basketball players of all-time and perhaps the best big man of all-time.
Shaq was made for television. His personality, charisma, and his overall aura of pure entertainment will make him a perfect fit for television. He already made it clear at his retirement press conference, in a humorous manner of course, that he will welcome offers from ESPN, TNT, and even CNN now that he has retired. Whatever post-playing career he decides to pursue, if he approaches it the same way he approached his time on the court, he will achieve success. The game of basketball is full of great players, but there are only a couple of players who have impacted the game the way Shaq did during his prime in Los Angeles.