MIAMI — A day after Shaquille O’Neal managed to upstage the NBA Finals with a 15-second announcement on Twitter that he planned to retire from the NBA, former teammates Dwyane Wade and LeBron James reflected on his legendary, certain Hall of Fame career of punishing rims and providing punchlines.
O’Neal had already won three NBA championships, starred in a couple of lousy movies and released a platinum-selling rap album before arriving in Miami after a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers in the summer of 2004. He and Wade won a championship two years later over the Dallas Mavericks.
“We had some great years together, so [I’m] humbled and totally honored to have been a teammate. I had the opportunity to play with one of the greats. I really learned a lot from him as a professional,” Wade said. “But as a fan, to see the dominance of what he did will never be forgotten. What he did off the court, always fun loving. Obviously, this won’t be the last time we see Shaq, but overall it was a great career as a person and a player.”
O’Neal’s time in Miami ended on a sour note, as he was traded to Phoenix during a 15-win season, and more than a year later, the Suns dealt him to Cleveland. His career ended in Boston, where he had an injury-plagued season and returned to face the Heat in the second round of this year’s playoffs. He appeared in two games, hobbling on the floor, before James and Wade ended the Celtics’ season — and O’Neal’s career.
“First of all, you give respect where respect is due. His 19 years in this league goes unprecedented, what he was able to do for this league, not only on the court, but off the court,” James said. “I think he was one of the only big men to ever play this game to be able to market and be marketable off the court. He sold shoes, did movies, did a lot of things off the court.”
“Don’t forget rap,” Wade said with a laugh.
“Rap, too. Sold records, did a lot,” James said. “His personality was definitely something I gravitated towards, being as outgoing as I am. Even before I had him as a teammate last year, being around him for the all-star games, being around him in the offseason. He was a great person. I think everybody knows what he was able to do with a basketball uniform on, but he was just as great off the court.”
Wade said O’Neal would always be remembered for having fun. “One thing about Shaq, he did it the way he wanted to do it, for 19 years. Not many people can say that. He enjoyed his time in the NBA.”