After 19 years, four championships, and a "delicious," epic "psychodrama" with his one-time Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal announced his retirement from the NBA on Wednesday, via Twitter and a link to a video message. Fans and sportswriters are reflecting on the great basketball star's legacy. What aspect of Shaq's "massive" career was most memorable?
His showmanship: "It's the fun and games I think of first with Shaq," says Michael Wilbon at ESPN, not "the dunks, blocked shots, and terrorizing opponents." Shaq is the player who came up with "nonsensical but completely clever nicknames" like the Big Aristostle and Wilt Chamberneezy; who rapped at Prince's Minneapolis nightclub; who said he wanted to be an undercover FBI agent; and who understood that "sports is show biz."
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His comedy: "He was the giant who kept the NBA laughing," says Mark Heisler in the Los Angeles Times. He could be hilarious without saying a word, like the time he put on John Stockton's "short shorts" over his expansive rear. He "gave us 19 years of tons of fun," and "without him, it will never be the same."
His sheer size: Any NBA player will "tell you that O'Neal's literal stature gave opponents or teammates pause more than any other contemporary they'd ever been around," says Kelly Dwyer at Yahoo! Sports. Shaq served as a vital reminder that basketball, a sport of big men, needn't always be "stiflingly complex." It really comes down to a "simple tenet": Just get the ball to the tall guy, and let him do the rest.
His staying power: "Shaq defied all logic," says Sean Gregory in TIME. He's a whopping 7-foot-1 and 325 pounds — Bryant once called him "fat" — so by the laws of physics he should have retired years ago. But he played on, and, at 39, he was the oldest player in the NBA this year. Sure, "the last few seasons weren't pretty," and his legacy might have benefited had he bowed earlier. "But then he wouldn't be Shaq, and that would have stunk."
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