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NBA: Shaq retires

By Jimmy Golen
Associated Press
BOSTON ó He was a prolific producer of rebounds and record albums. And nicknames, too, as if at 7-foot-1 and 350 pounds he was too big for the simple ěShaqî that made him an instantly recognizable, one-name star in all of his endeavors.
Shaquille OíNeal had more than 28,000 points and almost 4 million Twitter followers. He appeared in six NBA finals, three times as the MVP, and seven feature films, twice in a starring role.
A 15-time All-Star, four-time champion and the 2000 NBA Most Valuable Player, the 39-year-old OíNeal announced his retirement on Twitter on Wednesday after spending most of his 19th season on the Boston Celtics bench, in street clothes because of leg injuries.
Along with a mid-afternoon tweet saying, ěim retiring,î OíNeal included a link to a 16-second video of him saying, ěWe did it; 19 years, baby. Thank you very much. Thatís why Iím telling you first: Iím about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon.î
An inveterate prankster who gave himself a new nickname ó or several ó in each of his six NBA cities, OíNeal did not notify his latest team, leaving it wondering about his plans. He played just 37 games this season, the first of a two-year deal at the veteranís minimum salary, making just three brief appearances after Feb. 1.
ěHeís a giant,î commissioner David Stern said Wednesday at the NBA finals in Miami. ěHeís physically imposing; he has an imposing smile. In the game, he imposed his will, and he has done it for quite a long time. Itís been a great run, and weíre going to miss him greatly. We hope we can find ways to keep him involved in the game.î
OíNeal, 39, retires fifth all-time with 28,596 points, 12th with 13,099 rebounds, and a .582 field goal percentage that is second only to Artis Gilmore among players with more than 2,000 baskets. His free throw percentage of .527 ó well, now is not the time to dwell on that.
ěIím a little bit sad,î said Heat president Pat Riley, who also coached OíNeal when he won a title in Miami and watched Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning when they retired. ěItís been an honor to be part of coaching great, great players. And he will go down as one of the greatest of all time.î
Appropriately, OíNealís retirement became the No. 1 trending topic on the social networking site he embraced by early evening, and his former teammates and opponents took to Twitter to wish him luck.
ěShaq not only dominated the game of basketball but also dominated off the court w/ his big personality. Hes 1 of the greatest entertainers,î Magic Johnson said. ěThank you Shaq for leading the Lakers to 3 titles. We loved every minute of it!î
OíNeal spent three years at Louisiana State and was the big prize when the Orlando Magic won the 1992 draft lottery and selected him first overall. He took them from the lottery to the playoffs in two years, and then led them to the NBA finals in his third year before they were swept by the Houston Rockets.
OíNeal signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996 and had his greatest success there, winning three titles alongside Kobe Bryant and coach Phil Jackson. But amid tension between OíNeal and Bryant after a loss to the Detroit Pistons in the finals, OíNeal was traded to the Heat in the summer of 2004.
ěI often wonder how many they wouldíve won if he stayed,î said Johnson, the Lakers Hall of Famer.
Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who decided to break up the tandem and keep Bryant, thanked OíNeal for a ělong and amazing career, with a huge impact both on and off the court.î
ěHis contributions were significant to the entire NBA, but we specifically appreciate what he did with and what he meant to the Lakers during his eight years with us,î Buss said. ěWe have three championships that we wouldnít have won without him, and we will forever be grateful for his significant contributions to those teams.î

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