After 19 seasons, Shaquille O’Neal announced his retirement via Twitter. The first thing that popped in my head when I saw everyone reacting to his statement on my news feed was “Wow…. I feel really old!” I lived in New Jersey as a child and my dad took me to my first basketball game in April 1992 when I was five years old.
The Nets played the Orlando Magic; I found the ticket recently and thought to myself how cool it was that I got to see Shaq play back then. On reflection, however, I realized that he wasn’t even drafted until June 1992! My first in-person opponent was a pre-Shaq Orlando team, and here he is 19 seasons later retiring. Like I said…. man I’m old.
Shaq was a special player, and one of the best to ever wear a Lakers uniform. He arrived in California the same time that my family moved back to our SoCal roots and I feel blessed that I got to watch his whole Lakers career. Two games stand out in particular to me, as I’m sure they do for many other Lakers fans. Game 7 vs. the Blazers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals- I don’t know if I’ll ever forget that Kobe-to-Shaq alley oop!
There are a million more Shaq moments that one could pick to talk about: his “Can you dig it?” speech at the 2000 Championship Parade, calling L.A the real capital of California, his monstrous dunks, his abysmal free throws, the fact that an entire defensive ploy (Hack-A-Shaq) was essentially created to combat him, and his nicknames. Oh the nicknames: The Big Aristotle. Superman. The Diesel. Shaq Daddy. The list is almost endless.
He was a giant on and off the court, and more importantly knew when to be silly and when to turn his competitive fire on. Shaq did so much for the City of Los Angeles and as a fan I will be forever grateful. He helped bring us our first championship in 12 years and was an instrumental part in the Lakers’ threepeat, a rarer accomplishment than one might think.
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