Shaquille O'Neal was a one-of-a-kind superstar, and his retirement press conference was, fittingly, one of a kind. Shaq announced his retirement in a 30-minute news conference, during which he joked about the New York Knicks' open GM position, gave himself yet another new nickname, bashed critics like Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless and shouted out pretty much everyone he knew.
"Father time has finally caught up with Shaquille O'Neal," he said to begin.
Wearing a pink tie, O'Neal certainly made things interesting. He began by pretending to take a phone call asking him to take the New York Knicks' team president job after Donnie Walsh stepped down. He retired all his previous nicknames and asked everyone to call him "The Big AARP." He explained that he left Orlando to go to the Lakers in 1996 in part because of "a lot of selfish reasons: movies, stuff out there." He explained his feuds with Kobe Bryant as him "getting into business mode" and pushing his buttons to help win championships. He said children have it easy today with the Internet and that he'd be a "valedictorian" if he grew up today. He said he "didn't respect" critics who haven't walked in his shoes, singling out Bayless and Smith, but added that he will miss the media.
All in all, it was classic Shaq. Well, except for the reflective part. For a man who was known for having a healthy ego, Shaq was surprisingly honest about some of his shortcomings. He mentioned several times how much he regretted missing his free throws throughout his career. He explained that he decided to retire now because he was looking at surgery and a nine-month recovery, and he didn't want to let down the Celtics and the city of Boston by not recovering. He said he was selfish at several points of his career and retired in part to avoid needlessly chasing Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time scoring list.
Shaq also was incredibly thankful. He singled out Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers as great coaches, leaving out many others. He sung the praises of Dwight Howard, a man he once feuded with, suggesting that he would be "disappointed" if he didn't win three or four championships. He said he feels Kareem Abdul-Jabbar deserves a statue in Los Angeles before him. Finally, he ended his press conference by thanking dozens of family members.
In the end, though, Shaq left as the personable, unique superstar he always was. The most touching moment was when he talked about his parents and how difficult they had it growing up in a rough neighborhood in New Jersey. Here, Shaq said the questions over whether he reached his full potential are meaningless to him.
"Even if I didn't reach my full potential, I can look at my mom and dad and say 'We made it.'"