For basketball fans old enough to have followed the rise and fall of Shaquille O'Neal from his days at Louisiana State University through his career arc with the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers and even through the Boston Celtics, consider yourself lucky. That's because you've witnessed the story of the greatest center in the history of the National Basketball Association.
Some can point to prestigious names already ensconced in the NBA Hall of Fame -- names like Kareem Adbul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. Others will point to contemporaries like Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson or Patrick Ewing. Certainly George Mikan or Bill Walton also warrant consideration. Yet when it's all said and done, O'Neal is the one who stands with the greatest combination of achievements, stats, charisma and impact above any others. And it's this reason that the greatest center of all-time left on his terms.
The announcement was made via video to fans where he simply says, "We did it. 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." Just like that, Shaq went out in a way that will endear him in a way that few players can. There was no middle man. No press conference. No taking questions and rolling out a statement. LeBron James needs a 30-minute special to drag out his free agency. The greatest ever simply thanks the fans and walks away.
Perhaps some pomp and circumstance will come later, but even then it's deserved given Shaq's tremendous accomplishments: Four NBA titles. Three Finals MVP Awards. Rookie of the Year. MVP in 2000. He not only made his teammates better and more competitive, but he raised the standing of the entire NBA with a charm and charismatic power that can only be described as Shaq-like. His towering stature is only bested by his own legacy enough to endear fans across the spectrum and remain likeable no matter which franchise or coach he was playing for.
With a simple video that announced his intentions, Shaq gave his longtime fans one more reason to love him -- a direct message from someone at the top who has every reason to be distant that they were the ones who always mattered most. It's a once-in-a-lifetime moment from an equally rare talent.