BOSTON - He was a prolific producer of rebounds and record albums. And nicknames, too, as if at 7-1 and 350 pounds he was too big for the simple "Shaq" that made him an instantly recognizable, one-name star in all of his endeavors.
Shaquille O'Neal 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 O'Neal announced his retirement on Twitter yesterday after spending most of his 19th season on the Boston Celtics bench in street clothes because of leg injuries.
Along with a midafternoon tweet saying, "im retiring," O'Neal included a link to a 16-second video on the new site Tout, saying, "We did it; 19 years, baby. Thank you very much. That's why I'm telling you first: I'm about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon."
An inveterate prankster who gave himself a new nickname - or several - in each of his six NBA cities, O'Neal did not notify his latest team, leaving it wondering about his plans. He played just 37 games this season, the first of a 2-year deal at the veteran's minimum salary, making just three brief appearances after Feb. 1.
"He's a giant," commissioner David Stern said yesterday at the NBA Finals in Miami. "He's physically imposing; he has an imposing smile. In the game, he imposed his will, and he has done it for quite a long time. It's been a great run, and we're going to miss him greatly. We hope we can find ways to keep him involved in the game."
O'Neal 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 - well, now is not the time to dwell on that.
"I'm a little bit sad," said Heat president Pat Riley, who also coached O'Neal when he won a title in Miami. "It's been an honor to be part of coaching great, great players. And he will go down as one of the greatest of all time."
O'Neal spent 3 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 2 years, and then led them to the NBA Finals in his third year before they were swept by the Houston Rockets.
O'Neal 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 O'Neal and Bryant after a loss to the Detroit Pistons in the finals, O'Neal was traded to the Heat in the summer of 2004.