Shaquille O'Neal announced his retirement yesterday via twitter and while he never played for the Hawks, he was a big topic of discussion around these parts last summer. One thing is for sure, had Shaq came to Atlanta, he would have made a huge impact in someway. Whether or not that impact was positive or negative can be left up to debate. That simply was the way it was with Shaq.
A great example is his Boston tenure this season. Shaq looked so good early that his presence played into the decision to move Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City. It was also his absence from the Boston lineup that played a big part in their playoff loss to the Miami Heat.
Whether you liked Shaq or hated him, there is no denying the impact he had on the NBA. As he heads into retirement, he now takes his place as one of, if not the best, big man in NBA of all time. There was never any denying that when sufficiently motivated and in shape, Shaq could have been the single biggest match up nightmare for every club in the NBA. A rare combination of size, strength, and athletic ability leaves me wondering if we will ever see anything like Shaquille O'Neal in the NBA ever again. I feel lucky to have watched his entire career from his days at LSU all the way to the final days in Boston.
So what would have happened if Atlanta had brought Shaq in last season? At the time there were many unanswered questions. Looking at it after the fact, Atlanta shifted to a bigger lineup with Jason Collins at center. Shaq's presence would have at least forced most teams to adapt to the Hawks and not the other way around. Interesting enough that the deal ultimately fell through over money. A potential sign and trade deal involving Atlanta's Marvin Williams seemed to end the negotiations. Looking at it after the fact, Williams didn't quite have the impact this season that many were expecting.
Shaq's health would have no doubt played a part in Atlanta who would not have been equipped to adequately replace him in the middle. Heck even the Celtics couldn't do that. It is unknown how his sizable voice would have affected a locker room that was being led by a rookie head coach either. The funny thing about sports sometimes is that something that seems preposterous at the time can look pretty good after the fact.
At any rate, the NBA is losing a legend with Shaq's retirement announcement. His career averages of 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game speak for themselves. Perhaps it will be his personality, sometimes controversial, that will be missed the most.
Exit Question: What is your fondest Shaq memory?