[to top of second column]
Dale Brown, who coached O'Neal at LSU, sat on Shaq's left. Brown told a slew of stories, including one when Shaq asked permission to eat peanuts from a hotel minibar, not even considering the liquor. Brown lauded how O'Neal was raised and his charitable work, much of which Shaq does not reveal publicly.
O'Neal was so moved by Hurricane Katrina that he arranged for tractor-trailers to bring supplies to storm-ravaged New Orleans and personally oversaw distribution efforts. And after that, Shaq considered signing with the New Orleans Hornets, thinking his mere presence in the city would help recovery efforts even more, but the deal simply fell through.
"He's an unbelievable person," Brown said. "He'll stay that way."
O'Neal's immediate future is uncertain. He'll likely work in television, but his health comes first. Injuries derailed him this season, and if his injured Achilles' doesn't improve soon, surgery may be unavoidable. He said he promised his family he would get his body right.
The ways he changed the game were countless, beginning with his unique combination of size, strength and athleticism. He was the first big man to become a marketing giant. He spent huge money -- $650,000 one year in Miami -- to play Shaq-a-Claus for underprivileged kids at Christmas.
Everything wasn't always perfect. He clashed with teammates like Kobe Bryant, clashed with coaches like Stan Van Gundy. Nonetheless, those in the league still hold him in high esteem.
"A living legend," Heat guard Dwyane Wade said.
O'Neal said he leaves with some regrets, foremost among them not being able to reach 30,000 points. And while everyone knew what he would say Friday, he was anxious, something his mother gently chided him for afterward.
"I was nervous, Momma," O'Neal said. "I'm sorry."
Everyone laughed, as they did several times throughout the ceremony. He joked that the New York Knicks were calling, wanting him to interview for their general manager job. He cited his work in "award-winning movies, such as Kazaam."
He turned serious at times, thanking coaches like Phil Jackson and Doc Rivers, and proudly saying that his doctorate will be completed by January at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla.
He'll then be called Dr. O'Neal.
Good thing, because all his famous nicknames -- Shaq-Fu, The Big Aristotle, Diesel and especially Superman -- are now retired along with him, he said.
Henceforth, he'll call himself The Big AARP, which that organization couldn't have been happier to hear.
"If you're like most of our members -- half are still working, many more give back to their communities -- you're not done yet, either," AARP CEO A. Barry Rand said in a statement. "There's plenty left to do, enjoy, and figure out after 'retirement,' so let us know if you want help figuring out what's next."
Shaq's got a long time to figure that out.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
< Sports index
Back to top
News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries
Law & Courts |
Spiritual Life |
Health & Fitness |
Calendar | Letters to the Editor