Archives For June 2011

From Brian Kemenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: By a variety of measurements, through the 2010-11 season the Lakers had the least productive point guard tandem in the NBA. Worse than the 19-win Cleveland Cavaliers. Worse even than the 17-win Minnesota Timberwolves, who have turned themselves into a punchline thanks to an amazing ability to draft and sign PG’s without getting one who is actually effective. Via, the tandem of Derek Fisher and Steve Blake scored fewer points a game (10.9), had the fewest number of assists (4.9), the lowest field-goal percentage (38 percent), and by wide margins the worst ranking for efficiency and efficiency differential. Basically, had Andy and I traded off at the point for the Lakers this year, the team’s end-of-season rankings wouldn’t have been much worse. This is a bad thing.

From J.M. Poulard, Warrior’s World: About two weeks ago, NBA TV was showing Game 6 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals between the Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls. Some might remember that postseason as the year that Michael Jordan returned to the game of basketball as a slightly lesser version of his previous self. However, once you are able to get passed Jordan’s play, you notice the performance of stars such as Scottie Pippen, Penny Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal.Most people will have you believe that the Diesel was basically the mirror image of Dwight Howard prior to arriving in Los Angeles and nothing could be further from the truth. O’Neal already at the time combined great footwork with strength, quickness and agility to beat opposing centers to the rim. In that particular game against the Bulls, Shaq scored when he was single covered, passed the ball out when double-teamed and even found ways at times to beat the double team and score. Have a look at the Diesel’s averages in those six games against the Bulls:

From Stephen A. Smith, ESPNLA: He walked onto his self-made podium donning a three-piece suit and pink tie — swearing he looked gorgeous, as always. He took more than a few moments to thank all those he’s loved for so long, paying homage to a mother and father he loved most. And by the time Shaquille O’Neal had finished saying goodbye to an illustrious career spanning 19 years, punctuating his résumé with some of the most memorable moments in NBA history, the ease in his demeanor clearly exuded that of one comfortable with saying goodbye, cognizant of his place in history, buoyed by two resounding words to culminate his illustrious career: Mission Accomplished! “My Dad would always tell me, ‘Who’s Bill Russell? Who’s Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar]? Who’s Wilt [Chamberlain],'” O’Neal explained, during and after a festive press conference inside his mansion to announce his retirement on Friday afternoon. “He always believed I would be mentioned in the same sentence with those guys someday.

From Brian Windhorst, Heat Index: This was not a time for ceremonial titles and locker-room speeches. Dwyane Wade acted like a captain under heavy pressure on Sunday night. Because of that leadership, the Miami Heat have retaken control of The NBA Finals. Knowing the enormous implications of Game 3 of the tied series, Wade started to set an example at practice on Saturday. He carried it right on through another taut fourth quarter in a whirl of energy, aggression and spirit. There were several different reasons the Heat struck back for a 88-86 victory over the Dallas Mavericks to take a 2-1 series lead, not the least of which was another great player missed a shot when Dirk Nowitzki was just off at the buzzer. But there was no bigger difference-maker than Wade, who played like a man both immersed in and unafraid of the moment. “I took it upon myself as a leader to lead my guys by example,” Wade said. “I’ve been here before.”

From Kenny Masenda, Ed The Sports Fan: Ten years ago today, the Philadelphia 76ers took on the undefeated (in the playoffs) Los Angeles Lakers in Game One of the NBA Finals. The Sixers had gone through hell to get there, beating a team that constantly put them out of the playoffs in the Indiana Pacers, as well as enduring two seven-game battles with the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks. Despite that road, their final test was against a team that steamrolled everyone they played in the West that postseason: the Los Angeles Lakers. As crazy as it was at the time though, something told me that the Sixers had a puncher’s chance. Hell, they had the Coach of the Year, the Defensive Player of the Year, the Sixth Man of the Year, and, of course, the League MVP, The Great Allen Iverson. Besides, I lied to myself plenty of times about basketball, and the scenario played out so well in my mind that I truly believed they could beat LA.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: John Kuester was fired as Detroit Pistons head coach Sunday, setting him free and positioning him to sign up as a Mike Brown assistant coach again with the Lakers. Kuester and Michael Malone were assistant coaches under Brown in Cleveland, and both are strong candidates to follow Brown to the Lakers. Malone, currently Monty Williams’ lead assistant coach in New Orleans, is in line to be Brown’s lead Lakers assistant and in charge of the defense that Brown traditionally stresses — although he was expected to get at least a cursory look for the Golden State vacant head-coaching job, according to Ken Berger of Malone’s name might be familiar to some Lakers fans from this season because it was Malone who was the initiator in showing the Hornets the “Battle at Kruger” YouTube video to convey how underdogs can win if they band together (in the case of the video, to save a stalked calf from a slew of lions) during the playoffs against the Lakers.

With news coming out that the Lakers will retire Shaq’s jersey, the Diesel will live on forever as one of the Laker immortals. He’ll join Magic, Kareem, the Logo, Baylor, Wilt, Worthy, and Goodrich as one of the all-timers that Laker fans have been lucky enough to call their own at some point in their historic careers. It’s truly and honor to join those hall of famers in the rafters of Staples, but Shaq has earned that right. The three championships he helped deliver were more than enough.

And while some would rather focus on the way he left the organization, the fact that he may not have been as committed to his conditioning during his time with the team, or how he joined the Celtics for one last run, I won’t be one of those guys. Hindsight tells me that in the bigger picture, those things really don’t matter as much as all the good times; as all the winning.

The most persisting memory for most is likely the alley-oop that Shaq caught from Kobe Bryant in the western conference finals that capped that fantastic comeback that propelled the team to the Finals and, ultimately, the NBA championship that season. Over at Pro Basketball Talk, our old friend Kurt recalls that game too as he was there to see it in person:

I lucked into tickets for Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals. Someone I worked with at the time was a Lakers season ticket holder and had playoff tickets, but he had to fly back to England for his sister’s wedding and so he had to sell his Game 7 seats (well before anyone knew there would be a Game 7).

As a Lakers fan, with obnoxious Blazers fans right behind me, there was nothing like that game. The lows of missed shots. The highs of the comeback (which was fueled by so many Blazer misses of shots they had not missed for six and three quarters games).

Then the ally-oop.

And the explosion of noise in Staples Center. A building where now everyone was hugging and high-fiving everyone, whether you knew them or not. You were now there with your 19,000 best friends. Los Angeles is not like that, you don’t talk to your neighbors, or the guy in the next seat. But on this day we all knew we were witnessing one of the best sports moments of our lives. Los Angeles felt like a family.

Shaq did that. I’m going to miss him for all of it.

More than that game or even that play, the reason why that memory lives with me the most is the feeling that it embedded in me for the rest of Shaq’s career with the Lakers (and ultimately for most of the rest of his non-Laker career too).

From that point forward, I felt that anything was possible and that the Lakers could win any game that they played. No deficit was ever too big; no game was ever out of reach. When the Lakers went into the playoffs, I always felt that they would win. It’s what made the losses in 2003 to the Spurs and in 2004 to the Pistons so hard, but also what made rooting for the team so fun during that period. Shaq and his partnership with Kobe made the Lakers a juggernaut and I always felt that in a 7 game series, their talent would win out.

Those teams were special and as much as Kobe played a vital and crucial role on those teams (they don’t win without Kobe, and probably don’t win with any other of the great wings of that era in his place), Shaq was the catalyst on those teams. It doesn’t diminish Kobe’s value – those teams needed both players – but it also speaks to the value of a Shaq in peak form. With that man playing for the team that you rooted for, a championship was in play. Only a few players a generation create that aura and he was one of them. And for that I was, and remain, eternally grateful.

I understand that things weren’t always perfect. And part of me will always wish things wouldn’t have deteriorated the way that they did so the Lakers would have had a chance to continue to compete for championships with Kobe and Shaq playing together. But looking back, things worked out well for both players. Shaq got his title in Miami and the Lakers have won 2 more titles (and are in the hunt for more) with a team built around Kobe.

But my memories of those teams will be with me forever and Shaq was a key part of that. We’ve been saying goodbye to the big fella for several days now but today I say it one more time. The memories are just too strong for me not to.

Yesterday, we took a look at what the Lakers offense may look like next year under Mike Brown, basing our analysis off his three principles on offense. However, when digging deeper into Brown’s philophy there are real questions as to how this offense can work with the personnel the Lakers currently possess.

This is especially true in relation to Brown’s third principle of creating offensive spacing. I’ll let Zephid explain:

Floor-spacing is going to be a huge issue with this team, as currently constructed. Who knows how many minutes Fisher will actually play, and he was by far our best 3 point shooter last year at 39.6% in the regular season. Odom was second with 38.2%, which could be considered an anomaly since he hasn’t shot above 33% since his rookie year with the Clippers. After Odom comes Blake, then Artest, then Shannon, with 37.8%, 35.6%, and 34.9% respectively. Each of these guys attempt around 2-3 threes per game, so their shots were fairly evenly spread out. The huge problem, however, comes with the next two players: Kobe, then Matt Barnes. Kobe shot an abysmal 32.3% while taking 4.3 threes per game! Barnes was worse at 31.8%, but with only 2 attempts per game. As a team, the Lakers shot 35.2% from three, which was 0.6% below the league average, tied with the Atlanta Hawks for 18th in the league.

If the Lakers are going to be relying on floor spacing and ball reversals with an inside-out game, they’re going to have to hit three pointers to balance the floor. Maybe our guys will improve. Steve Blake was a tremendous three point shooter during his Portland years, always above 40%, and Shannon Brown was on-fire, NBA Jam-style at the beginning of the season. I’m also curious to see the NBA HotSpots for ‘10-’11, because I’m sure it’ll show Artest shooting much better from the wings than from the corners. Hopefully Mike Brown will see this and utilize it.

As we’ve seen from past seasons, the Lakers offense hums best when the outside shot is falling. Early in the year when Shannon, Odom, and Blake were all efficiently knocking down their open three pointers, the Lakers looked unbeatable. However, by the time the playoffs rolled around, only Odom was shooting the deep ball even reasonably well. I’d argue that as much of a weapon it is to have your power forward take and make that shot, him hovering around the three point line also took away from his other strengths as an offensive player by limiting how often he slashed into the paint or worked the offensive glass by finding creases in the defense.

The fact is, that going into next season the Lakers will need to shore up their three point shooting to not only give post players adequate room to operate but to also make the defense pay with one of the more efficient shots in basketball. And, ideally, those players would be the Lakers’ guards and wings.

But who can step up? Over at Land O’ Lakers, Andy Kamenetzky has a candidate in mind:

In a lot of ways, it begins with Steve Blake. The reserve point guard was acquired in part to make the Lakers a much better three-point shooting squad. Unfortunately, this never materialized, as Blake shot just 37.8 percent from distance, a notable dip from his career .391 mark. In part, the issue was Blake’s failure to find a comfort zone while quarterbacking a new system. But also, he literally didn’t shoot enough to develop a rhythm or become a threat, averaging just 3.9 attempts per game over 20 minutes…Blake absolutely must provide more of an offensive presence next season, which means calling his own number more often. I believe Blake can bounce back next season. With the triangle essentially scrapped, he’s by definition more likely to adopt a more “traditional” point guard role, which can only help the cause.

However, whether it’s Blake, Artest, Fisher, or even Kobe (who’s three point shooting numbers were pretty dreadful this past season, especially considering how many attempts he took per game) the Lakers must improve from the outside in order to fully take advantage of all the offensive strengths on their roster. As we saw against the Mavs, it’s quite difficult for post players to effectively work the low block with perimeter defenders sitting in their lap and outside shots not falling to make them pay for that approach. Only time will tell if it will be an internal solution or someone brought from the outside, but everyone in the organization should see this problem as one that needs to be addressed. Because if it’s not, one of the key principles in the new coach’s approach to offense will be grounded before even attempting to take off.

From Arash Markazi, ESPNLA: If Mike Brown weren’t a basketball coach, it would be easy to envision him as a successful salesman. Although some basketball coaches look pained, annoyed and altogether bothered talking about their profession and philosophy with anyone outside of the coaching circle, Brown loves talking about basketball with just about anyone willing to listen. He can do it for hours even among the most casual observers and not make them feel inferior when they can’t keep up with his coachspeak. He will simply smile when he sees that glazed look on their faces, grab a pen and paper, and diagram what he’s talking about as if he were teaching his 13-year-old son about the game.

From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: Lakers All-Star Pau Gasol announced on his @PauGasol Twitter handle that he “will play the European Championship with my National Team.” Eurobasket 2011, set to take place in Lithuania from August 31 to September 18, will offer automatic berths to the 2012 Olympics to the first and second place finishers. Gasol opted to skip last year’s FIBA World Championships, won by Lamar Odom and Team USA, in order to rest up for the 2010-11 NBA season, but said during his exit interview following the season that he was leaning towards playing for Spain, particularly with an Olympic bid on the line. Gasol led Spain to the 2009 Eurobasket title, and was named tournament MVP for his efforts.

From David Friedman, 20 Second Timeout: The L.A. Lakers have selected 2009 NBA Coach of the Year Mike Brown to lead the transition into the post-Phil Jackson era. Brown was at the helm during the best five year run in the history of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is an excellent defensive-minded head coach who fully understands that championship winning teams are built at that end of the court but he is now facing a big challenge–actually, he is facing several big challenges: 1) It is always tough to be the man who follows “The Man.”

From Michael Wallace, Heat Index: Is it possible to be responsible, fair and objective the morning after? Or are we still attaching one team’s motivation to another team’s silly, in-the-moment celebratory method of a single play?  Now that the dust has settled — as well as the faux confetti and champagne — can anyone truly admit there was only one thing wrong with Dwyane Wade’s freeze-framing his release after that 3-pointer he drained in front of the Dallas Mavericks’ bench midway through the fourth quarter of Game 2 to put the Miami Heat ahead by 15 points? It’s that the Heat froze up afterward and now have three days to thaw on the raw emotions before Game 3 in Dallas on Sunday.

From Jeff Miller, OC Register: We were there the day Shaq kissed TNT’s Craig Sager. We were there the day Shaq growled, “I’ll be hungry until I feed myself a championship.” We were there the day Shaq called then-Kings coach Rick Adelman “an idiot.” Yeah, we were there for a lot of Shaquille O’Neal and certainly wrote plenty about him. But our favorite Shaq column appeared almost exactly a decade ago — on June 6, 2001. In it, we talked to others about O’Neal’s sheer enormity. A few highlights: Former Laker Tyronn Lue remembered the first time he shared the court with Shaq during a televised game. Lue — 6-foot, 175 pounds — returned home to find several phone messages waiting from friends. “They all wanted to know one thing,” he said. “When did I become 5-feet tall?”

From Mark Medina, LA Times: Regardless of whether some believe Shaquille O’Neal’s eight-year tenure with the Lakers could’ve gone better had his relationship with Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and Jerry Buss didn’t sour, he didn’t always report to training camp out of shape and demanded Buss to “pay me” during a preseason game, the Lakers’ owner rightfully released a statement thanking O’Neal for his contributions to the Lakers after he announced his retirement Wednesday. He played a significantly large part in the Lakers’ three peat from 2000-2002, averaging 35.9 points, 15.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks during the Lakers’ Final victories over the Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets. The top moments during that run includes his legendary dunk off Bryant’s alley oop lob in Game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers and his near quadruple-double in Game 2 of the 2001 NBA Finals against the Philadelphia 76ers

I may not care about winning a press conference, but I must admit that I came away impressed with Mike Brown after his introduction to the media on Tuesday afternoon. The new Laker head coach came off as intelligent and very much in his element when dealing with the press. He deflected the questions he needed to deflect, stood up for himself when appropriate, and seemed to have a clear vision for this team and its current core of players. After the presser was over, it’s now pretty clear how he could have wowed the Laker braintrust in an interview to become the team’s 22nd head coach in its rich history.

What interested me most, though, wasn’t his demeanor or even his ability to effectively get the media to on his side with his enthusiasm and comforting style. What interested me the most were the little details that he shared about his approach to the game and how that may translate to this particular group of players. Especially on offense.

In his presser, Brown shared that he has three “principles” that he focuses on when teaching offense:

  1. He wants to “attack the clock” and get the ball up court quickly in order to avoid having possessions deteriorate to the point where shots get forced up with the shot clock winding down.
  2. He wants the ball to move from side to side via ball reversals with an emphasis on the ball moving in and out of the paint.
  3. He wants the floor spaced.

After giving us these bits of insight, Brown also mentioned that he will incorporate “bits and pieces” of the Triangle offense while also falling back on his time with the Spurs to find ways to incorporate the big man talent he’ll have at his disposal with this Laker team. Brown also spoke about getting Kobe the ball in “his spots” in order to maximize Kobe’s talents as a scorer and shot maker.

Based on all this information, we can now start to speculate a bit more on what a Mike Brown offense will look like.

First and foremost, it’s obvious that the Lakers will play a bit faster than they did this past season. Expect to see the Lakers guards pushing the ball up court far more frequently than they did this past season, looking for their teammates to run with them whenever possible. This will mean more post lane sprints by the Laker bigs (Brown actually mentioned this in his presser) and for the Lakers wings to get out in the open court much more looking for easier baskets in transition.

Second, look for the Lakers to enter the ball into the post much earlier in offensive possessions in order to collapse the defense and take advantage of the strength of their post up threats. On the 2002-03 Spurs team, Tim Duncan often got the ball early in offensive possessions to let him set up shop in his comfort spots to attack the defense. On this Lakers team, Gasol, Kobe, and Bynum can all offer post up threats to mirror what Duncan provided that team. If the Lakers can effectively rebound the ball at the defensive end, I expect to see the ball up court quickly with one big man running to rim, the other running to one of the other low blocks, and the ball handler (be it the PG or Kobe) looking to either get the ball into one of them quickly or calling for a quick P&R to set up an action where the ball can get into the paint to compromise the defense.

Third, look for ball and player movement to be a big part of what the Lakers look to do. Mike Brown acknowledged the need to get Kobe the ball in “his spots” and for his big men to still get the touches they need to be effective. The only way this can happen is for the ball to move and for the players to move into those positions. We all know that Kobe’s best spots on the floor are at the elbow, the extended wing (or the “shoulder” of the court where the three point line arc meets the sideline), and at the mid post on either side of the floor. These are the spots on the floor where Kobe operated out of the Triangle for most of his career and where he’s shown the most comfort creating shots for himself or his teammates. We also know that Gasol’s spots are at the elbow and the mid-block on either side of the floor while Bynum operates best from the deep post on either block and at the front of the rim on lobs and duck in actions.

This is where Brown saying he’ll run “bits and pieces” of the Triangle come into play. Brown, a notorious film junkie, surely understands that there are several actions in any offense to best get players into these positions. All variety of cross and down screens, cuts and flashes, and classic post ups can get his players into these positions. It will be on Brown to diagram these actions but this actually shouldn’t be that hard considering nearly every offense uses these actions today in order to get their key players the ball. The Triangle used them, P&R heavy teams use them, and you can find these same actions in the Maverick and Heat sets during the Finals. Understand that just because the Lakers won’t have Phil Jackson (or Brian Shaw) running the triple post offense doesn’t mean some of the basic actions it used can’t be integrated into a different O to get the same type of results.

But there will be change too. We’ll see how Derek Fisher and Steve Blake fit into the philosophy of pushing the ball more. We’ll see where Ron Artest and Lamar Odom find their shots and if some of the versatility they offer can also be built into these same actions. We’ll see how an emphasis on attacking the paint off the dribble affects players like Barnes and Ebanks who seem to do best as slashers rather than ball handlers. Depending on the answers to these questions – or how player evaluation goes into determining whether or not these guys are suited to perform in these roles – we may see roster change over that gets different pieces to execute these sets.

In the end, however, I do think the Lakers will be just fine on the offensive side of the ball when incorporating Coach Brown’s ideas into their sets. There’s just too much talent – and diverse talent at that – for this team not to adapt. After all, this is still basketball and the Lakers have some of the best players in the world at their disposal. Just because it will look different, doesn’t mean the results can’t be similar. And after Mike Brown gave us some clues to how he’ll use these guys, we may find that things look pretty similar anyway.

From Andy Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Safe to say, only Shaquille O’Neal could announce his retirement with just 29 words, yet create a tizzy equal to a 29,000 press conferences. Twitter was in danger of exploding late Wednesday morning when, via a new real time video messaging service called Tout, Shaq let the world know he’s hanging up the sneaks for good. “We did it,” said O’Neal to his fans. “Nineteen years baby. I want to thank you very much, that’s why I’m telling you first, I’m about to retire. Thank you, talk to you soon.” Throughout the video, O’Neal is all smiles, a casual peace sign flashed in lieu of tears welling or visible introspection. (If you stick around after the video ends, another video of O’Neal singing “When Doves Cry” begins.) It’s fitting he’d alert the fans before the Celtics or the media, because nobody in the NBA played more to the cheap seats than Shaq. He never lost sight that sports is a form of entertainment for Joe Q. Public, and he lived to uphold end of the bargain.

From Michael Schwartz, Valley of the Suns: When Steve Kerr pulled the trigger on a trade that brought the Phoenix Suns one of the best big men in the history of the game, albeit in his older stages, he knew the deal would make him look like either a genius or a moron. In hindsight that answer is obvious as Shaq only put the Suns closer to a championship upon his trade to Cleveland, but Kerr went for that deal because of a proven NBA fact over the course of the last two decades: If Shaquille O’Neal graces your roster you have a shot at a ring. With Shaq announcing his retirement Wednesday on social media, fitting for all he did to grow Twitter among NBA players, his late-career stays in Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston will be seen as merely footnotes to a 19-year career that was perhaps the Most Dominant Ever, complete with four championship rings, 15 All-Star appearances and shockingly only one MVP trophy. But he wasn’t that Shaq for the Suns. When the Shaqtus was dealt to Cleveland I summed up his Phoenix career like this:

From Dave McMenamin, ESPNLA: Some time in the future, fans attending a game at the Staples Center will be able to say, “Look up in the rafters! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s Superman’s retired jersey!” 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. O’Neal, 39, revealed his retirement earlier Wednesday using the new social media tool Tout, a real-time video messaging service, to announce to fans: “We did it. Nineteen years baby. I want to thank you very much, that’s why I’m telling you first, I’m about to retire. Love you, talk to you soon.”

From Daniel Buerge, Lakers Nation: On a day that was supposed to focus around reactions to Game 1 of the NBA Finals one man stole the spotlight as he has so many times in his legendary career. Shaquille O’Neal announced via Twitter that he is retiring from the NBA after spending 19 years on the court. During his time in the league O’Neal played the role of entertainer as well as basketball star, and became a character that was larger than life. ?With O’Neal’s illustrious career now at an end it’s only fair to look back at the impact he made on the league and the legacy he left. As the league transforms more and more into a league dominated by guards and wing players, it’s safe to say that O’Neal may go down in history as the last of the great big men. But his legacy is so much more than that.

From Jack McCallum, Sports Illustrated: One of the worst habits of journalists, including myself, is beginning sentences like this: “There will never be another …” We do it all the time, caught in the moment, unable to remember the immutable truth that there is an unstoppable tide to history, players and events coming and going, coming and going, coming and going. Still, I’m going to say this: There will never be another Shaquille O’Neal. There will be (and has been) bigger players, and there may even be outright funnier players (though not many), but it was the combination of the two that made Shaq sui generis. “Nobody roots for Goliath,” Wilt Chamberlain once said, and that was true … until Shaq came along. It figures that he would announce his retirement via Twitter. He was among the first athletes to put the “social” in social media. Shaq was the world’s biggest circus clown (that’s a compliment) and brought an antic sense to his profession that surpassed that of any athlete I ever covered. Kevin McHale was close — the Boston Celtics forward once told me how complete his life would’ve been had he invented the phrase “cement pond” from “The Beverly Hillbillies” — but McHale was a supporting player on teams led by Larry Bird, and, with Bird around, you couldn’t get too antic. Shaq, by contrast, was always The Man in Charge, the Jester in Chief, his teams running on Diesel fuel.

From Tom Ziller, SB Nation: Shaquille O’Neal has announced he will retire from the NBA after 19 often brilliant seasons punctuated by an MVP award in 2000 and four championships. Shaq wore many hats during his NBA career: dominant center, physical anomaly, skilled giant, quote machine, bad actor, worse rapper, bequeather of nicknames, mogul, fan favorite, target of hate, diva. But all of that pointed at one clear definition of Shaq as an entity: he was a star. Shaq was almost a perfect response to Michael Jordan, the reigning hegemon whose NBA welcomed O’Neal in 1992. Where Jordan was psychotically determined and polished, Shaq was often goofy and darling. Nothing mattered more than basketball for MJ, and it showed, even when he made movies with Looney Tunes. For Shaq? Basketball was a piece of him. Basketball was the day job — a day job he did seem to love and that he was obviously incredible at. But just a piece. We sit at the end of a long, gold-encrusted 19-year career, and we know now basketball was just a piece of Shaq. Imagine how we’ll see it in another decade, when O’Neal’s run through another dozen projects.

From Mark Medina, LA Times: One of the first messages Shaquille O’Neal received from Phil Jackson consisted of both a compliment and a challenge. “I told Shaq when I took over as head coach in our first initial meeting as a team that the MVP trophy should be named after him when he retired,” Jackson recently told Fox Sports’ Mark Kriegel. The message spoke both to Shaq’s nearly unstoppable stature. His 7-foot-1, 325- pound frame provided a physical presence that proved difficult to stop inside. His agility made it hard to slow him down. And on the heels of Shaq officially announcing Wednesday his retirement via Tout, he’ll be remembered as one of the most dominant centers in the game.

In a move that was classicly Shaq, the Big Everything issued a statement via his twitter account that simply said, “I’m retiring” with a link to a video making it official.

There will be much more analysis to come and I’m sure many tributes (as well as those that would like to criticize) the big man’s career. I, however, have nothing but love for the big man that came to the Lakers as a free agent in 1996, joined forces with a rookie Kobe Bryant, and brought the Lakers three consecutive championships and four trips to the NBA Finals during his tenure. His time with the team wasn’t always smooth and things certainly didn’t end well, but the memories of those good times last forever.

And speaking of memories, enjoy this clip of highlights from Shaq’s career. His dominance was something that we may never see from a big man ever again. His combination of size, strength, quickness, and overall athleticism made him a monster that none could handle when at his peak. He was truly one of a kind. I’ll miss you, big fella.