After a 19-year career that will likely land him in the Hall of Fame, Shaquille O’Neal announced his retirement this afternoon via Twitter.
“We did it,” he said. “Nineteen 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.”
O’Neal, who signed a two-year contract with the Celtics last summer for the veteran’s minimum, played just one season in green. As one of the best scoring big men in the league’s history, he boosted the Celtics’ offense dramatically in the first half of the season. But as the oldest player in the league, the 39-year-old center was hobbled by leg injuries for much of the second half.
In 37 games, he averaged 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds, but after tweaking his right Achilles Feb. 1 against the Kings in Sacramento, he sat out almost all of the next two months. Initially, the team expected him to return by the start of April, but the inflamed Achilles never completely healed. He returned April 3 for a home game against the Pistons, but lasted just six minutes before limping off the floor.
The Celtics held out hope that he would return at some point during the postseason. They swept their first-round series with the Knicks, going without O’Neal’s services. He returned to play Games 3 and 4 against the Heat, but he was on the floor a combined 12 minutes in both games, physically unable to give the team much.
O’Neal came to Boston with the hopes of winning one last championship to add to the four he had already won. He and Kobe Bryant paired up to win three straight with the Lakers from 2000 to 2002. He left Los Angeles after an ugly feud with Bryant, demanding that he be traded to Miami. He won a title there in 2006 with a young Dwyane Wade.
He went to Cleveland last season with the intentions of doing the same thing with LeBron James, but in a meeting against the Celtics, he injured his thumb getting tangled up with Glen Davis, costing him the final 29 games of the regular season. He returned for the playoffs but never found a rhythm.
Still, O’Neal will retire as one of the more dominant players the league ever has seen, a 7-foot-1-inch 325-pound giant with speed and agility that was hard to fathom for his size. He won the MVP in 2000, when he guided the Lakers to their first of three straight titles. He also won his first of three Finals MVPs that year. He went to the All-Star Game 15 times and took home MVP honors in three of them, including 2009 when he shared the honor with Bryant.