Shaquille O’Neal retired yesterday, on Twitter through a video service that he probably has an investment stake in. And while that might not be the most eloquent, grandiose or legitimacy-lending method, it’s definitely very Shaq. For now at least, we’re living in a post-Shaq world, which will not be that different than this NBA season anyway.
One of the big questions in the wake of his announcement was where he’d have his jersey retired? Los Angeles was the easy answer, and as it turns out, the correct one. From ESPN:
The Los Angeles Lakers plan to honor their former self-proclaimed Superman, Shaquille O’Neal, by raising his No. 34 jersey to the rafters.
“We don’t have any specific timetable on this, but you can be assured we will retire Shaq’s jersey,” said Lakers spokesman John Black in an email on Wednesday. [...]
All seven other Lakers players to have their number retired are members of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, but the team may not wait for the requisite five-year grace period before O’Neal enters the Hall as a surefire, first ballot inductee before hosting the jersey ceremony.
“We don’t have a specific policy on it,” Black wrote. “As you know, players have to wait five years to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but we could possibly do a jersey retirement ceremony for Shaq prior to that.”
Not surprising, but cool. Three titles, three Finals MVPs, one regular season MVP, eight All-Star appearances, an All-Star MVP and five first team All-NBA selections is a pretty strong résumé, even if his Lakers career only lasted eight seasons. Definitely should have his number retired in L.A., even if I’ll never really think of him as No. 34.
And that’s the weird thing. Shaq switched teams so often (six teams in 19 seasons, four in his final four years) that it’s really hard to remember him as a certain number. At LSU he wore 33, then he became famous in Orlando while wearing 32, but had to switch to 34 in Los Angeles because of Magic and Kareem, before switching back to 32 in Miami and Phoenix, only to rock 33 again in Cleveland, ending up wearing 36 in Boston because every other number there is retired. Since he might not have his jersey retired anywhere but L.A., it’s strange to think he might go down in history as a No. 34, considering that was a number he had to wear because his preferred choices were already retired. Just bizarre.
But still, Shaq having his jersey retired is a huge honor. Of course, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar thinks Shaq should ask for a statue immediately, but I’m guessing the Big Retiree will be happy having his jersey in the rafters.