Thursday, June 2, 2011

A ShaqFu Farewell - By KD

Perhaps my Daily Rant entitled "Will We (Ever) See Physical Dominance Again?" was a bit premature. Shaquille O'Neal has officially retired, via Twitter yesterday, as the NBA's 5th All-Time leading scorer. Perhaps, he was the greatest player of all-time (just ask Dwight Howard), certainly the most dominant, and had he been fully committed to offseason conditioning, who knows how well he would've been. 19 seasons spent with the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Boston Celtics later, the Diesel has finally hung 'em up.

I'm not sure we'll ever see a superstar with the charisma of Shaq ever again. Peyton Manning? Ken Griffey Jr? Sidney Crosby? I don't think they'll ever match what O'Neal did, not only in the NBA, but in the entertainment industry. Even as a statue or an orchestra conductor , better known as Maestro Shamrock, O'Neal could do it all. He appeared in movies "Blue Chips", "Kazaam", and had a cameo in "Space Jam". He delivered some absolute gems behind the mic, and at this point I'm not talking about his rap career.

He had many nicknames throughout his career. Superman. Shaq. Diesel. ShaqFu. Fu Schnickens. The Big Aristotle. Self-proclaimed G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time). The Big Shamrock. The list can go on. He even had a verbal spat a few years back because Dwight Howard infringed upon the Superman moniker that adorns O'Neal's arm. He was so big that he changed the game. His rookie year, playing against Robert Parish and Kevin McHale on the Celtics, O'Neal threw down a power dunk over the Chief. On the way back down the court Parish said to McHale, "It's probably time we hang 'em up". Not a bad impression for a rookie to make as a Hall of Famer.

O'Neal was dominant in Orlando, ripping down backboards and breaking hoop superstructures. He won multiple titles with the Los Angeles Lakers, while rapping all about it afterwards. He won again in Miami alongside Dwyane Wade, bringing the Heat their only NBA Title.

Looking back on his career, the numbers are undoubtedely Hall of Fame worthy. I've summed it up in these 15 points for you:

1) 28,596 points - good for 5th all-time.
2) 13,099 rebounds - 12th all-time.
3) 2,732 blocks - 7th all-time.
4) 23.4 ppg average his first 11 seasons in the NBA.
5) Avreaged 10.7rpg in those 11 seasons.
6) Averaged 29ppg three times throughout his career.
7) Four NBA Championships - 2000, 2001, 2002, and 2006.
8) 3-Time NBA Finals MVP - 2000-2002.
9) NBA MVP - 2000.
10) NBA Rookie of the Year - 1993.
11) 15 All-Star Game Appearances and 3 MVPS.
12) Two-time NBA Scoring Champion - 1995, 2000.
13) Eight appearances on the All-NBA 1st Team.
14) 1994 FIBA World Championship MVP.
15) Must I continue?

Yes, he had some incidents on the court involving: the Houston Rockets, Brad Miller, Charles Barkley, Dennis Rodman, Andrew Bynum, and he took his fighting talents off the hardwood and into the ring against Oscar De La Hoya, and The Big Show on WWE Raw. But that's what made him so great. He could physically dominate anybody, whether in straight up basketball or in street brawling. He could do it lyrically as he rapped about Kobe Bryant, or by producing music videos.

Shaq did it all. He did it on and off the court. He did it for a long, long time, and was at the top of his game, if not the entire NBA, for most of that tenure. He'll be missed by just about everyone in the league, except maybe Kobe, and as Steve Nash said on Twitter last night, I can't wait to see what's next from the Diesel. He'll be at the top of the list of athletes that I tell my kids and grandchildren about. My dad told me stories of Pete Rose, Johnny Bench, and the Big Red Machine. He told me tales of Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird. Of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Of Vince Lombardi and the Packers teams of the 60's. Of The Beatles. I think Shaq is the athletic equivalent of our generation to what the Beatles were musically, to our parents generation. And, at 39 years young, he's still got so much left to do.

I'd urge you all to watch a few Shaq highlights, just so you can remember, at least for a day, the most physically dominant athlete of our generation. He was relevant nearly every year of his 19 year career, and my gut says that he'll continue to be relevant well into the future. But, for now, from a basketball perspective, you'll be sorely missed Shaquille O'Neal.

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