Shaq Aging With Grace

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Aging gracefully in professional sports is an art few superstars can master.

Evander Holyfield is still boxing, hockey legend Gordie Howe played one shift at 69 and Satchel Paige threw his last pitch at 59. We still don’t know if Brett Favre is really done or not. They are just some of the glaring examples of a long and storied list of superstars that did not — and do not — know when to say when.

But there is a way to go out gracefully. You can be ushered out of the game without someone’s boot in your back.

Future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal is rewriting the book this season in Boston, showing that it’s possible to age with grace and do it in style. He’s even doing it in a city that loathed him for years when he was starring for the rival Los Angeles Lakers.

Shaq is still the most robust and magnetic personality the NBA has to offer. He’s light years away from being the MDE (Most Dominant Ever), yet he’s not bitter about it. He will step aside for Kendrick Perkins in the Celtics’ starting lineup without any fussing.

How he’s managed this transition should be required viewing for those who will soon follow him into the twilight of their own careers. My main man Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports caught up with the big fella, who waxed reflective about his journey and how close it is to the end:

O’Neal has started each of the 35 games he has played for the Celtics this season and has come off the bench just nine times in 1,205 career games. The last time the 19-year veteran was used as a reserve was a single game for the Miami Heat during the 2006-07 season. Perkins recently returned from knee surgery, and it’s inevitable he’ll eventually return to the starting lineup because of the continuity he has with the rest of the Celtics’ starters. Once Rivers is ready to make the change, O’Neal says he’ll have no problem moving to the bench.

Allen Iverson could never make that transition. When no NBA team offered him a job this season, he signed to play in Turkey before a recent injury.

“You can’t beat the system. You have to join it,” Shaq said. “Even if I could, it wouldn’t be business-ly advantageous to act like that. So no, the system is always right. So whatever the system says you do, you just do it.

“I just enjoy still traveling, going to cities and having a good time. If Perk’s going to be in the starting lineup and I’m coming off the bench that’s fine with me.”

Celtics coach Doc Rivers has praised Shaq’s willingness to do any and everything that’s been asked of him since he arrived in Boston.

Shaq has another year on his contract. And all indications are he’ll finish that deal before making any decision about when he’ll leave the game as a player (you know he’s headed for someone’s set, hopefully one somewhere near the hideout here). With his personality and versatility, he’s already a multi-media superstar, Shaq can write his own post-playing career ticket.

As for what he’ll leave behind, Shaq said it best:

“I don’t worry about my legacy,” O’Neal said. “I look at it like this: There are certain guys that have legacies, and I’ve [expletive] tripled and quadrupled what the [expletive] they did, like Bill Walton. That’s how I look at it. Real talk. Everybody has a pen, so everybody’s going to say otherwise. But I know guys that got one [championship] and they got $60,000 speaking gigs off what they did 30 years ago. My legacy is straight. I don’t worry about it.

“I’ve prepared myself for [the end of his career] when I came in. For like the first 10 years my father would tell me, ‘You need to own some [stuff].’ I said, ‘Why? I make a lot of money.’ He said, ‘What if you hurt your knee or something?’ From then I’ve been in business mode. So I’ve been thinking about the day I’m done playing for a long time. And I’ll be fine.

“It will be real easy, real easy, real easy. Too easy.”


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  2. WG says:

    Shaq and Jordan are the best entertainers in Basketball history.
    Anything Shaq does, he does it well, Its gonna be a sad day in basketball when Shaq retires.

  3. Green K9 says:

    He is still the second best center in the east at age 38. He belongs in allstar game. he is a good teammate every player that has played with him has enjoyed being on his team. Except Kobe. If he got the foul calls that he deserved over his career he would have twice as many freethrow attempts and makes. Making up for his poor freethrow percentage. However consistantly makes them at end of games. Starting 5 of all time in teir prime Jordan, Magic, Sha,q Lebron, Allen Whos got next?

  4. RedDog says:

    Sekou is one of the few journalist that give shaq the props he deserves. Only active and former players respect how good shaq was and even still is. The most dominant center of all time. You cant compare old school centers they just dont match up. There is the pre jordan era and now the era with advanced human advanced training advanced medicine and advanced technology and rules. Not mention shaq is a good and generous person and entertaining athlete. The only negative attention he has been involved is trades and a problem with a snot nose brat in L.A. that has problems with everyone he plays with and for.

  5. shaq is , for me , is the BEST CENTER of all time .

    no one can ever make what he had done .

    not even DWIGHT HOWARD ! coz for sure when howard is at the dawn of his career , or when he’s 38 years old . he is going to be worst than shaq today !

  6. Mr.LOVAMON SHABBAAA!! says:

    People need to stop comparing Dwight Howard to him real talk . Never will be another shaq .

  7. BigM says:

    I take my hat off to Shaq !!!
    Maybe it sounds like too much, maybe I’m forgetting many good or great players, maybe I’m not considering all the aspects of the game… but, for me, Shaq is THE BETTER CENTER that I`ve ever seen !!!!
    If you had ever played basketball any time in your life, you know how physically strenuous it can be… if you played in center position, you know it is much harder… and I can`t imagine how hard it must be for him, being the most dominant player in the league… and having resisted each and every one of the blows… and he still keeps resisting… and keeps being the BEST !!!
    Today, Shaq is the measure for appreciating any center, and I think that this fact is the proof of how great and important he is for the game.

  8. Hetfield says:

    I´m sure the Magic will retire number 32, not so sure about the heat or the Lakers, although they should. I started watching this league when i was 10 and Shaq was in Orlando. It was his style of play and his agressiveness that suddenly caught my attention – and of course Penny Hardaway `s class -. The NBA will miss him a lot when his gone, but i still think he´s gonna get a few more rings.

  9. Rob says:

    I think its funny they’re even talking about legacy. No one is going to have the legacy that Shaq does. Not only was he the most dominant player, but he’s been the most dominant personality for the better part of two decades. He’s also humble which is rare, I mean how awesome was his response to Kobe winning the rings? Just a stand up guy.

  10. Nonya says:

    OK seriously not to rain on Shaq here but did dude from yahoo really have to play A.I. like that? Serious how in the hell do you call yourself a reporter and then not report the facts that A.I. clearly had his manger state that he WOULD COME OFF THE BENCH BEFORE HE WENT TO TURKEY. Again not raining on Shaq and the many of you who when he said something foul back a few months ago many of you were dogging on this man now you praise him.

    To the topic at hand though I don’t see why people even wonder about “What is Shaq going to do when he leaves the game?” cause it is clear he is going to stay in the media and his endorsements are not going anywhere anytime soon. Hell we seen what his wife got off of his name alone so what do you think he will get? A hug? Lmao its the Big D and only superman to play this game with everyone watching his every word.


  11. EDMON says:


  12. Danny D says:

    I’m praying that he joins Chuck and the gang on TNT…..then it would be the funniest pregame/halftime/post game show of all time!

  13. Lola Farinloye says:

    I know this article is about Shaq, but in my mind Shaq to an extent typifies the 4-20,000 pointers on the Celtics team (KG, Ray-Ray, The Truth and of course Shaq). You might not like them (I personally love all of them for what they bring to the game). Every time each and every one of them steps on the court they bring 110%: KG brings passion; Ray brings Class; Pierce brings Determination (even when the shots are not falling); and Shaq? Shaq brings joy, humour, laughter. In different ways they remind me/us of what I/we love about this game. Shaq has had a storied career, but more than his basketball smarts, Shaq made us happy because everytime he stepped on the court, he brought humour and laughter while everytime giving the game 110%. By the way why are we talking like Shaq is retired (I hope he gets two more rings than Kobe – with my Celtics of course).

  14. Alberto says:

    shaq is the man…. Celtic pride from Italy

  15. Zar The Knicks Fan says:

    shaq is the man and one of my favorite players
    my question is
    which team will retire his number?

  16. A FAN says:


    • CelticsFan says:

      LOL…did you forget your MIAMI got the only ring in recent times when SHAQ played for you ???… MIAMI will not get past Orlando, if it gets past…CELTICS will crush them for sure…

  17. O BaByShaQ says:

    Shaq is the most dominant player to ever play the game. Not the best player, not the best centre, but most def top 10 of both. However, he is the most dominant player to play the game and unless we go back to the era of no three point line and no three in the key he has no competition.

  18. Prasit says:

    I used to watch Shaq in Laker and later in Heat when I was in USA and Canada. It always fun to watch Shaq; too bad he couldn’t co-exist with Koby. During his prime, he was the most dominant player. After Hakeem domination of NBA, Shaq got better at his position and become number one. Given up some Speed for massive power. Now, from the great player in his prime, he still actively doing the right thing for the team… that is relying on the system/teamwork that goal for WINNING. Something a lot of great people couldn’t do and tragedy occurs. 🙂 NBA would never be the same without Shaq when he is ready to leave. I know I won’t feel the same……..

  19. vlad says:

    I wonder if the lakers will retire no. 34. Maybe Miami should do the same with 32. Even if Wade was the finals MVP, there would have never been a championship dream in Miami without Shaq.

    Shaq’s legacy :He’s like toillet paper and tootpaste…he is proven to be good :))

    • gangstarr says:

      I agree. A great man, great personality, great player, great father a great great philosopher….haha. Kids dont know how dominant this guy was for a good 12 years.3 time finals MVP, 4 rings, 6 time NBA Finals, 28,000 plus ponts. GMs were signing big guys so that they can play 3 minutes and use their 6 fouls on Shaq. No GM is trying to find Howard hackers nowadays. Even now, on the post he is unstoppable, slightly slow getting up and down the court but once there he is still dominant. The guy had 15 blocks in a game….NBA game! Class-ick…Greatest Centre of all time….Sorry Wilt, Kareem, Bill. you guys played with midgets.

  20. Paolo_0212 says:

    Shaq has redefined the Center position by leaps and bounds. A lot of players today who are 6’10 or 7’2 play the 4-spot because they hesitated to play the Center spot whenever Shaq’s in town. His rare blend of power and agility was something to behold every single night. And we all know how Shaq works his magic off the court. So, when it finally comes. When it’s time to pass on the red cape to the next generation, it is safe to say that no one can ever match, the man called Shaq.


    • mtm says:

      you’re right no one is like shaq. in his prime, unstoppable, even now a top 5 center. he can play one on one with shaq wannabee Dwight. notice Dwight’s trying to do what shaq does, being funny, wanting to act etc…

    • Rob says:

      Paolo you nailed it man – everyone knows about Shaq’s power, but equally important have been his agility and footspeed, his excellent ability to catch and handle the ball cleanly (not something every center can do, though i cant really understand how all these guys get to the NBA WITHOUT doing that…), and the fact that he could score with both hands. even if you ARE stronger than Shaq, he’ll just go round you.

  21. tikolo says:

    First of all, having followed the NBA for the past 30 years I have not seen any player with the personality that Shag has. I thing that has helped him more than his playing in the NBA. And now as his time is coming to an end in the NBA it would pay off more for him than other players. He is one player that has really helped the NBA. When he retires I think He would be miss on the basketball court. As for his legacy there is no doubt that he would leave one of the best legacy ever as a basketball player. Go Shag you’ve been an inspiration to me and maybe a lot of people. I only have one request Please retire as a Laker, I know you love the lakers from the bottom of your heart, don’t care what really happen in LA.LA. Land. GOD BLESS: TIKOLO

  22. Sean says:

    Shag is the man, he has and will always be a class act. He is funny and knows the game quit well. I would love to see him and Sir Charles and Kenny talk about today’s players: that should be funny as heck. The Koby drama is a thing of the past and I like what Shag said, “his legacy will speak for itself”. He is rich and has marketed himself well and will do well as long as he keeps his ex in check all should be well. Shag and I share the same birth month (March) and his birthday is the 3rd and mine the 8th, maybe that is why he is the man in my eye sight.

  23. Jay Triano says:

    Shaq needs to come to the raptors, derozan, shaq and bargnani….the new BIG THREE!!!! Raptors would fully beat the celts in the finals and win the champ!

    • Rob says:

      no they wouldnt, they’d get annihilated.

      garnett is better than bargnani.

      pierce is better than derozan.

      perkins is better than shaq.

      then you have to find people who can play rondo, allen, davis, daniels, robinson and (jermaine) oneal. i wouldnt trust bargnani covering JO, never mind garnett…

  24. demetrius says:

    shaq’s the man period!

  25. YeeDog says:

    Thats my boy Shaq !
    Getting Another ring this year.

  26. AndresDK says:

    It’s good to see (and read) that the media’s focusing on an evolving character. Just because Shaq had some difficulties with Kobe, in Phoenix and Cleveland I don’t think that should be his legacy. He’s clearly possesing a tremendous basketball IQ and has understood what is best for his team, the league and the sport. Let that be his legacy (along with his dominance, his titles and his impressive position on the all-time scoring list) instead of some short-lived indifferences.

  27. ballbuster says:

    His show Shaq Vs. is some of the best tv in the summer, i’m guessing that he will be on TNT with Sir Charles. He definatly has a lot of charisma. He knows the game, he knows what point in the professional career he is, he wants another championship, he will be that team player so that he gets another one. he has the personal accomplishments, now its all about the rings. Good Luck to you Shaq!

  28. ErdenFan says:

    Yea boy! Shaqs the man! even tho i love seeing him on the court i cant wait to see what he does after its all over!