Shaquille O’Neal may very well have played his last game in the NBA. The Celtics center suffered through injury after injury in his lone season as the Big Shamrock, playing in a career-low 37 games and appearing in just two playoff games. O’Neal is hardly the dominant figure he was throughout his entire career as he enters his twilight.
This summer will likely be spent trying to figure out if O’Neal is going to try and hang on to his NBA glory for one more year or if he will finally decide to hang it up.
It has been a wild career for Shaq: from young prodigy in Orlando, to budding dominant player in Los Angeles, to champion, to willing sidekick in Miami, to hanging on a little too long. O’Neal will likely go down as the most dominant force of this generation and one of the great entertainers this league has ever seen. Four championships and 28,596 points have established O’Neal as a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
As he enters the end of his career, he likely will get such retrospectives — heck TNT did it last night on Inside the NBA — and we will spend the rest of time trying to figure out where he places in NBA history. Part of his place is as that dominant force and part of it might be how he never was as dominant as he could have been, with his insistence later in his career of reporting to camp out of shape and sitting out a set number of games — he played in 80 games twice in his career … his first two seasons.
O’Neal should also be remembered for his big heart. His Shaq-a-Claus charity event has been a big giving event everywhere he has gone. And O’Neal has quietly donated a lot of money to his alma mater, Louisiana State.
The Tigers, now that O’Neal’s career is ending, are trying to honor one of their proudest basketball alumni.
LSU announced plans Wednesday that the university will erect a life-sized bronze statue of Shaq to go outside their practice facility.
“It’s been discussed for quite a while,” LSU associate vice chancellor for communications Herb Vincent to NOLA.com. “He stands out as an iconic figure who is known worldwide. He’s always represented LSU well in his athletic career. He’s the only athlete we’re had that has been national player of the year and the MVP of his professional sport. He carries some unique credentials which made it seem appropriate.”
The statue was paid for through private funds and is a most deserved honor. LSU said O’Neal has been on board with the project despite reports to the contrary.
SportsByBrooks reported that O’Neal initially resisted recognitionthrough a statue or any other type of recognition. He has donated millions of dollars to LSU and the athletic department. His donations helped build the practice facility O’Neal’s statue will stand in front of.
It seems the O’Neal statue is part of a big plan by LSU to honor other players from its great past, although LSU insists the O’Neal statue is the only one that has been planned. According to SportsByBrooks, LSU plans to also honor Pete Maravich (whose name already graces the basketball stadium in Baton Rouge), Minnesota Lynx forward Seimone Augustus and St. Louis Hawks great Bob Pettit (although Brooks reports Pettit has requested no statue be made until he has passed away).
Again, LSU denies having plans for commissioning any statues other than O’Neal’s.
It is definitely well-deserved on Shaq’s behalf. He averaged 21.6 points per game and 13.5 rebounds per game in three seasons at LSU, winning Player of the Year Honors from the Associated Press in 1991. He completed his degree at LSU in 2000.
Photo via DayLife.com.