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Shaq may never play in the NBA again. And that’s sad.

May 11, 2011, 4:24 PM EDT

2009 NBA All-Star Game Getty Images

We’re going to miss Shaquille O’Neal.

Not the Shaq of this season, or even the last several. Not the guy who has played just 17 minutes since Feb. 1 because even that little time aggravates his leg injuries. That is a shell of the former player, a guy who at his peak was one of the greatest big men ever to play the game.

But the fact he is in so much pain leads one to think he may walk away after this season. Shaq has said he wanted to play one more season, at age 40, and he has a $1.4 million player option for next season. It’s his call. And as a personality it would be hard for him to walk away from the camaraderie of the locker room.

But the fact he can barely walk after 12 minutes of playoff action over two games means he may walk away after all.

And whenever he does walk away, we need to remember the Shaq of a decade and more ago. The guy who had four rings, three finals MVPs and one regular-season MVP trophy. The guy who is a career 58.2 percent shooter. The guy with the third-highest career PER of all time (Michael Jordan and LeBron James, to answer your next question).

Shaq is the guy who built the Magic into a successful franchise, bringing the game and personality to excite a young expansion market. He cemented his legacy as one of the greats in a Lakers uniform that has been worn by so many of the game’s greatest big men. He came to Miami when it was common for them to put tarps over full sections at the top of the arena and both sold the building out and won another ring with Dwyane Wade.

Shaq was as much a personality as a player, generating headlines off the court as much as on it. His feud with Kobe is the stuff of legend. He had a massive Twitter following before half the mainstream media figured out what Twitter was. You’ll remember him for dancing with the Jabbawockeez.

He should be remembered for all of it. Not this exit.

  1. onebadace - May 11, 2011 at 4:38 PM

    I remember when he came to the Suns and he still could do SOME work and I had the privelege to meet hime TWICE during his tenure with Phoenix. HUGE guy, HUGE personality, and it was awesome. Great player as well.

  2. andrejohnsonforpresident - May 11, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    Talk about domination.. In his prime he was easily the best player in the NBA imo. His offense was fierce and as far as i’m concerned he was the key piece for those Laker championship. Kobe should be happy he had him then.

    • andrejohnsonforpresident - May 11, 2011 at 8:44 PM

      I’m actually pretty happy to see how many people agree with what I said. He was literally unstoppable, there’s a reason I believe hes top 5 in ft attempts, you had to foul the man. Plus his overall speed, the guy was practically a 7 foot athlete. An the funny thing is i believe it was last year some broadcast had a stat box up during the game of superstar groups that won championships. They were all 3 man crews except the 3-peat lakers. They only had Shaq and kobe. Heres to you Shaq imo the greatest nba player in my generation if you don’t count MJ haha and possibly the best bigman of all time!

  3. cordae - May 11, 2011 at 5:15 PM

    Long live “The Diesel” 1991-2006

    I still cant believe I’m watching this guy play and he was drafted a year after I was born lol

  4. rick1v - May 11, 2011 at 5:22 PM

    In his prime, the only defense that worked against him was the flop – thank you Floppy Divac. For about 6-7 years, about as unstoppable force as we’ve ever seen in our league (Hubbie Brown’d).

    All that said, you kinda think it should have been bigger. He didn’t take care of himself or care the same way Kobe has. If he had done that, and made peace with Kobe, maybe he wins another 3 titles with the Lakers, and extends that period of amazing dominance.

    • cordae - May 11, 2011 at 7:59 PM

      Care and Kobe doesnt sound right in the same sentence. And why did he have to make peace? The person Kobe was then was flat out immature. Read Phils book, Kobe was the “uncoachable” one…

      • aboogy123456 - May 12, 2011 at 9:54 AM

        In his book he said kobe was uncoachable but shaq never gave a dam, but that’s all in the past. Shaq was one of a kind.

  5. thekingdave - May 11, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    Well said. The last of the big man era.

  6. cosanostra71 - May 11, 2011 at 5:41 PM

    I will always remember what Shaq did for the Lakers. There were some sour grapes for a few years after he left because of his decision to burn all the bridges, but that is in the past. During the threepeat, he was literally unstoppable. The only way of even attempting to contain him was to foul him. Truly a top 10 player of all time. One of the things that I’ll always remember about him that seems to often go unnoticed was how great of a passer he was out of the post. Many of today’s big men just simply do not have that kind of ability anymore.

  7. keyshawn22 - May 11, 2011 at 6:27 PM

    The best player in the NBA since Jordan. Kobe would be nothing without him, the Lakers would of won those 3 titles with just eddie jones. Shaq was the mvp in the finals all 3 times not kobe.

    • mytthor - May 12, 2011 at 5:33 AM

      ridiculous comments. Kobe would be nothing without him? I was trying to think up a witty metaphor to illustrate how stupid that is, but I literally can’t think of anything stupid enough to qualify.

  8. philtration - May 11, 2011 at 9:53 PM

    He was a great player but seeing him now is a lot like watching Willie Mays tripping over 1st base in a Met’s uniform.

  9. sandmanjackson77 - May 11, 2011 at 10:09 PM

    Honestly Shaq should of retired a while ago. He definitly was one of the most dominate big men to play the game. It has been sad to see him get old but thats apart of life. You cant stop the hands of time and Thank you Shaq for your memories. I knew you would be something special back in your LSU days. When you tore apart the back board in New Jersey and the whole support system in Pheonix i knew U had more thingsto come. I was mad with you when you left orlando to go to L.A. but You flourished and Became that dominate player and won 3 titles. then you went to miami and won again. Ur personality, the way you played the game and that time you brought that old man a new car after on of your games in L.A. you took the man to the dealership and brought him a new car. that touched me that someone could be that giving. Good luck on your new life because your past was great.

  10. flash316 - May 12, 2011 at 6:33 AM

    I was a huge fan until he started acting like a diva on South Beach… I will remember him from his Rookie years to the end of 2006, in my mind the last 5 years didnt happen! The greatest big man ever!

  11. jaycutlerslagunabeach - May 12, 2011 at 9:12 AM

    I’ve been a basketball fan since I was 4 and the first pro game my father took me too was an Orlando Magic game. And for the rest of my life I knew I would always follow him, more than Jordan or anyone else. Because as a 4 year old when you see a player tear a hoop down like it was a koosh door frame basketball set nothing else will ever compare. I don’t care what anyone else says he was the greatest basketball player of all time in my eyes, trully a once in a generational player with his size and speed, he became the face of every franchise he played for and will forever be the standard to which a center is judged. If this is the final bow for Shaq it’s been one hell of a show.

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