Shaquille O’Neal was as funny in his retirement speech back in 2011 as he was dominant during the Lakers’ threepeat.
There are few people who’re as important to NBA lore and culture as Shaquille O’Neal. There have been other great big men in the past 30 years or so. The likes of Hakeem, Ewing, David Robinson and Dwight Howard, just to name a few, have all been dominant.
But it’s fair to say that a peak Shaq trumped them all – both in the PR department and on the court. You’d be hard-pressed to find a 3-year run by any NBA player more dominant than the Big Aristotle’s 2000s run.
Shaq averaged 35 points and 15 rebounds across 3 NBA Finals while winning the Finals MVP trophy on all 3 occasions. He was so game-breaking that contending teams just had to load up on big men just to put him at the foul line.
And put Shaquille O’Neal at the foul line they definitely did. For the Lakers legend, despite all of his virtues on both ends, had one major weakness. He was indeed the worst high-volume free throw shooter in league history for a long time.
Shaq tried his level best to improve his shooting, but it all came down to execution in live game situations. He seemed to have a mental block about this. This prevented him from shooting his practice free throw percentage of 80%.
Shaquille O’Neal gave a retirement speech that encapsulated the Shaq experience to the fullest
Shaq sometimes dodged questions about improving his free throw percentage during his playing days. But he was usually quick to acknowledge that weakness and even made it a part of his whole persona.
So much so, in fact, that he threw in a well-timed, well-placed joke about his own free throw shooting while announcing his retirement after a stint with the Boston Celtics in 2011:
“After 19 years, I’m announcing my retirement from professional basketball. It is now time for me to begin my new life. I would like to thank my mother, and father for their support and guidance.”
“The fans have meant a lot to me, I just wanna thank the fans. The fans all around the world really, really showed me love wherever I went. I’d like to thank the NBA and David Stern for what he’s created here for the NBA today.”
“I’m going to miss a lot about the game. I’m going to miss the competition, the camaraderie, the friendship, the fans, joking with the media, and I’m definitely going to miss the free throws.”