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Shaq: ‘Time for what’s next’

June 4, 2011
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

WINDERMERE, Fla. (AP) - Shaquille O'Neal changed from his gray T-shirt and sweat pants into a three-piece suit, then walked by some of the souvenirs he accrued during his NBA days for the final time as an active player.

Framed jerseys from the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Wayne Gretzky, Mark McGwire, Kirby Puckett, Steve Young and Jerry Rice. An NBA finals MVP trophy. Bottles of wine with labels bearing the "S'' logo that he borrowed from Superman and essentially made his own. Basketballs with the Miami Heat logos painted on them, one to commemorate his 25,000th point, the other for his 10,000th rebound. A photo of him, Bill Russell and John Wooden.

It took him 19 years to collect those memories.

On Friday, he vowed to start truly savoring them.

"It's time for what's next," he said.

O'Neal, 39, made his retirement official, reiterating what he revealed in a video posted to Twitter two days earlier that his NBA playing days are over. Saying those words where he did brought a full-circle piece of closure to his career, since it all ended at his home in a suburb of Orlando, the city where his pro days began when the Magic made him the No. 1 pick in 1992.

"Never thought this day would come," O'Neal said. "Father Time has finally caught up with Shaquille O'Neal."

Speculation has been high for weeks that O'Neal's playing days were over, and what was widely expected became real on Wednesday. It took him 10 seconds to announce his plan in a video posted to Twitter, and as few athletes in the world could do, those 10 seconds turned into a three-day story. Tributes have poured in since, and on Friday, O'Neal thanked just about everyone he could remember.

He insisted he will not return, nor will he coach anyone but his three sons. His career ends with 28,596 points, 13,099 rebounds, 15 All-Star selections, four championships and three NBA finals MVP awards.

"I'm the luckiest guy in the world," O'Neal said.

For a finale, it was in a fitting place. He loves his home, surrounded by a golf course, ironic in the sense that O'Neal has no plans to take up the game in retirement.



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