Surrounded by family and friends, Shaquille O’Neal officially announced his retirement at his home in Orlando, Fla., proudly proclaiming he finished his career doing it his own way.
“I’m comfortable here saying I did it my way,” O’Neal said.
And in typical fashion, O’Neal was equally entertaining as gracious in his goodbyes. Just as he was getting started in his opening remarks, he was interrupted with a cell phone call.
“Who is this? Yes. For real? You want me to come up and apply for the New York Knicks general manager job. OK, sure I’ll be up right after the press conference. OK, sure thank you. That was the president of the Knicks. He wants me to fly up right after the press conference and to try out for the general manager job.”
He added: “I’m going to miss a lot about the game. I’m going to miss the competition, the camaraderie, the friendship, the fans, joking with the media and I’m really going to miss the free throws.”
O’Neal said he didn’t want to drag out any potential recovery period, opting to let Celtics general manager Danny Ainge know immediately that he was retiring.
“I was very down on myself,” O’Neal said of his achilles injury. “I had tears in my eye. I was upset. Talking to my father, talking to my girlfriend, talking to my kids. Just very upset. I tried. I just couldn’t pull it off. I even did things that my father always told me never to do. Never get the shot. But I wanted to play so bad, I wanted to help Boston so bad. So I took a shot here one week. Didn’t work. Let me try a different shot, [and] a different shot.
“Finally played that game in Boston that one time,” O’Neal continued. “I watched the game at home and looked terrible. That’s not how I wanted to go out.”
O’Neal gave many thanks. But he also gave thanks to Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
“Playing for Doc Rivers this year was very, very special because we had a lot of talent on the team,” he said. “But Doc Rivers always, always, always focused on the team. I could remember one time, I came to him like, Doc, I’m 5 for 6. If you want, I can go 10 for 12 or 12 for 18. He said, ‘Shaq it’s not about you, it’s about the team.’ So, thank you Doc.”
In addition to retiring from his playing career, O’Neal also decided to retire his many nicknames. From now on, he said, he’ll go with “the Big AARP.”