Shaquille O’Neal officially announced his retirement on June 1, 2011, and it took the Los Angeles Lakers just two years to honor The Diesel by raising his No. 34 jersey in the rafters at Staples Center on April 2, 2013. In classic Shaq fashion, he gave Lakers fans one thundering messaged: “Can you dig it!”
In a video post on Tout.com in 2011, Shaq said: “We did it. 19 years baby. I want to thank you very much. That’s why I’m telling you first. I’m about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon.”
Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass, in 2016. The Diesel headlined the 10-member class that included Philadelphia 76ers great Allen Iverson, Chinese superstar Yao Ming, WNBA star Sheryl Swoopes, longtime Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and NBA executive Jerry Reinsdorf.
O’Neal, a four-time NBA champion and three-time Finals MVP, was one of the NBA’s most popular stars for what he did both on and off the court. Shaq was the most dominant big man of his era, and arguably one of the 10 best centers of all time. To honor the man with more nicknames than Apollo Creed, and arguably one of the five greatest centers in basketball, here are his 19 greatest moments for each of his 19 seasons. His glorious and colorful career brought many great highlights in Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami, Phoenix, Cleveland, and Boston. He won four NBA championships, three NBA Finals MVPs, one regular season MVP and countless outlandish one-liners. A look at his most memorable moments:
19) One of Shaq’s best attributes was his quick wit. He got a kick out of giving everyone nicknames, from teammates to opponents. He gave Paul Pierce the nickname “The Truth”; he was responsible for Dwyane Wade’s “Flash” moniker; and he tagged Tim Duncan “The Big Fundamental.” He also gave Kobe Bryant a nickname, but unfortunately we can’t publish it.
18) As a rookie in 1992-93, O’Neal brought the house down – literally – in Phoenix when he pulled down the entire basket stanchion on a follow-up dunk against Charles Barkley and the Phoenix Suns. It was Shaq’s coming-out-party since the game was on national TV and the NBA was dying to showcase a young bright star in case Michael Jordan retires and decides to play baseball. In the same season, the legend of Shaq grew even bigger when he shattered a backboard in New Jersey with the force of his dunk, and the shot clock clipped him on the head.
17) Shaq won the NBA Rookie of the Year in the 1992-93 season, helping turn the Magic into one of the biggest draws in the league. With Shaq front and center, Orlando went from a 21-win team to a 41-win team.
16) Who could forget Neon Boudeaux? OK, his performance in “Blue Chips” probably wasn’t Oscar-worthy but it pretty much summarized Shaq’s basketball career. It lacked substance at times, there were some bright moments, but overall it was extremely entertaining. “Kazaam!” and “Steel” on the other hand, were simply atrocious. Sorry, Shaq.
15) The Magic won the lottery again in 1994, trading the pick for guard Penny Hardaway. Shaq and Penny formed one of the best tandems in the league and, even though their union was short-lived, it brought the Magic to new heights, winning 50 games in 1993-94 and reaching the NBA Finals in 1995.
14) The best part about those Lakers championships during the Shaq-Kobe era was the postseason celebration. Nobody can get a crowd going better than The Big Entertainer. His rendition of “It Takes Two” in 2001 before 250,000 Laker fans gathered in front of Staples Center was easily the best championship parade in the history of parades. To cap things off, Lakers forward Mark Madsen did his little dance routine (or whatever he was doing) that left everyone in a frenzy.
13) Much has been written and said on how Hakeem Olajuwon “destroyed” Shaq in the ’95 Finals. Statistically speaking, The Diesel averaged 28 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists and 2.5 blocks, while Olajuwon averaged 32 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks in the Rockets’ four-game sweep. Sounds like a stalemate in terms of the one-on-one matchup. Just to show there were no hard feelings between the two big men, Shaq and Hakeem shot a Taco Bell commercial in the offseason. Watching the two of them ride a tandem bike was hilarious.
12) The highlight of the 2009 All-Star game in Phoenix was The Big Cactus taking the stage and performing a dance routine with “America’s Best Dance Crew” Jabbawockeez during the pre-game festivities.
11) As a member of Team USA’s dominant 1995 World Championship team in Toronto (also known as Dream Team II), O’Neal was named MVP of the tournament despite not playing heavy minutes. He also starred on the United States Olympic basketball team that won the gold medal in the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta.
10) On March 6, 2000, Shaq celebrated his birthday with a bang! Prior to the game against the Clippers, Shaq was upset the Clippers (the home team for that night at Staples) didn’t provide him with enough tickets. He unleashed his anger on the Clippers by dropping 61 points.
9) Before LeBron James’ much-publicized “Decision” in 2010, there was “Shaq Goes to Hollywood” free-agent saga in the summer of ’96. Thanks to the bright mind of L.A. Lakers general manager Jerry West, the balance of power in the league shifted from the East Coast to the West Coast when O’Neal signed a record-setting $120-million contract to move to L.A., and then the Lakers traded for 18-year-old high school phenom Kobe Bryant on draft night. It was the beginning of the Shaq-Kobe dynasty.
8) Game 7 in Sacramento in 2002 will go down in history as one of the best playoff games in NBA history. The Lakers and Kings played an epic overtime game at Arco Arena, with the Laker prevailing and advancing to the NBA Finals. But after the game, Shaq topped his on-court performance with an off-the-court, impromptu rap dedicated to Vladic Divac. Watch and listen:
7) After being traded to the Miami Heat in summer of 2004, Shaq promised Miami fans that he’ll bring a championship to South Beach. Two years later, that promised was fulfilled as O’Neal and D-Wade led the Heat, coached by the great Pat Riley, past Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals.
6) Shaq was named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players of all time in 1997 despite having played in only five seasons. The recognition was debated by some basketball experts, but basketball writer Peter Vecsey defended the selection, arguing that O’Neal belongs in the conversation and was already well on his way to becoming one of the dominant players the league has ever seen. As usual, Vecsey was right.
5) The Diesel was extra motivated to play the 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals because he was going up against Defensive Player of the Year Dikembe Mutombo, who likes to throw his signature finger-wag each time he stuffs his opponent. Shaq never dunked the ball harder in his life during the 2001 Finals, and dropped a few devastating elbows toward Mt. Mutombo’s chest and face. There was one play in which Shaq lifted Mutombo off his feet and exploded for a one-hand slam, showing his awesome power and agility. The Lakers rolled to their second consecutive NBA title, losing only one game in the playoffs. O’Neal captured his second Finals MVP trophy. He averaged 33 points, 16 rebounds and 3.4 blocks against a Sixer squad led by 2001 MVP Allen Iverson.
4) A young 260-pound Shaq exploded onto the basketball scene when he rocked the 1989 McDonald’s High School All-American game with one ferocious coast-to-coast slam dunk. It certainly got a huge rise out of ESPN’s Dick Vitale, who said during the telecast: “Oh! Oh! Oh! I can’t believe! I can’t believe it! That’s a 7-footer!” That play launched a two-decade basketball career is certainly worthy of a spot in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. O’Neal went on to star at LSU for three years before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Orlando Magic in 1992. He finished his NBA career with 28,596 points and shot 58% from the field, both marks are in the top five.
3) Shaq loved the whole Superman persona, and he finally fulfilled his kryptonian side when he pieced together one of the most dominant seasons in NBA history in 1999-2000 when he was named regular season MVP (near unanimous choice), All-Star Game MVP and NBA Finals MVP in leading the Lakers to their first NBA title since 1988. In the Lakers’ six-game series win over the Pacers in The Finals, O’Neal posted some jaw-dropping numbers: 45 minutes per game, 38 points, 16.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. During his acceptance speech for winning the regular season MVP, Shaq told the media that he would like to be referred to as The Big Aristotle.
2) The Lakers needed a fantastic finish to cap their stunning comeback in Game 7 of 2000 Western Conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers and Kobe and Shaq provided that moment. Kobe dribbled to the top of the arc, crossed over Scottie Pippen, and drove to the hoop. Kobe floated a perfect lob pass that only O’Neal and his massive 7-foot-1 frame can reach. The alley-oop dunk punctuated the Lakers’ furious rally and ignited a run of three consecutive NBA championships.
1) Shaquille O’Neal showcased his talent as an entertainer and proved that he’s more than just a basketball talent when he appeared in a music video with the rap group Fu-Schnickens in the early 1990s. It was not only the birth of Shaq Fu, but it was also the beginning of a successful career that went above and beyond the game of basketball. It was a glimpse of what was to come for the next two decades. He was the first professional athlete to cross over to the rap game and be accepted as a true hip-hop artist and not just a novelty act. Shaq appeared with Fu-Schnickens on “The Arsenio Hall Show” in 1992, and from that point on he never stopped being an entertainer. O’Neal released four albums, including “Shaq Diesel” which went platinum. Shaquille’s popularity extends outside of sports. He is a successful entrepreneur, music and film star, and his larger-than-life personality that can lift up an entire planet. He is a true global icon.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter at: twitter.com/onemanfastbreak.