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2 Jun 2011

Shaquille O'Neal - The original 'Superman'

The Big Shaqtus, Shaqnifique, The Big Shamrock, Shaqtastic, Shaq Attack, Shaq-Fu, The Big Diesel.

Whatever nickname he chose to be known as, Shaquille O'Neal will always be known as one of the best players to ever set foot in the NBA. 7ft 1in tall, 300lb (even more at times), Shaq would bully his way through the toughest of defenses and dunk the ball like you weren't there. At times his power could be scary - many rims were bent, buckled, pulled off. The man even brought down a whole basketball hoop on his own. How a man so big and heavy could jump so high defied the laws of physics. When he took to the air, players practically pushed each other to get out of his way. His special "Black Tornado" move left defenders bamboozled, high and dry trying to defend thin air as he spun his way past and dunked before his man had a chance to count to 3.

In 19 seasons, Shaq played with 6 teams, winning 4 titles, 3 NBA Finals MVP awards and the 2000-01 NBA MVP award along with 15 All-Star game appearances. 5th on the All-time scoring list with 28,596 points, he led the league in Shooting % (shots made out of shots attempted) for 10 seasons, breaking the previous, 40+ year-old record of 9. His stats speak for themselves. Shaq was one of just a few players to average over 20pts and 10 rebounds for his career (23 and 11).

If he was playing for your team, there was no other man in the world you would rather have the ball near the basket. His dunking madness allowed him to finish his career with 58% of his shots made, a testament to his under-the-basket style.

Winner of 3 NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers and up and coming star Kobe Bryant, Shaq became the undisputed face of the post-Michael Jordan NBA. After a long and embarrassing feud with Bryant, Shaq was forced out of the Lakers' door and signed with the Miami Heat. Angry at the Lakers' attempt to replace him with Vlade Divac, an inadequate center at the best of times, Shaq teamed up with Dwyane Wade to deliver a title to Miami and stick his finger up to his old team.

He never quite hit the same heights again after this championship year as he moved across the league to Pheonix, Cleveland and finally ending the journey in Boston. But what he lost on the court he made up for with his larger-than-life personality off the court.

Some of his antics will be long remembered; throwing parties in various cities where he would be working the mic, dancing with whoever turned up. He released 4 rap albums and had 2 reality TV shows, further spreading his name across the entertainment world. His 2009 All-Star entrance will go down as one of the most memorable - and ridiculous - in history.

His retirement is probably a few seasons overdue, but it doesn't make the sadness any less. Shaq was by far the most dominant player since MJ, perhaps one of the most dominant ever given his defensive presence. He earns a spot in my Top 10 All-time players for his incredible career. Thanks for it all, Dr. Shaq.


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