Shaquille O’Neal will always be a Laker. His statue is in front of Staples Center, and he’s in the Hall of Fame as a Laker. Yet, he ended his career as a Celtic. That last season is something Shaq will always regret, as he shared on Fair Game.
He went to the Celtics, but he wasn’t Shaq anymore. 9.2 points per game, 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks don’t live up to his legacy. Shaq felt he could help Pierce, Garnett, Allen, and Rondo, but then his Achilles snapped. The worst injury a basketball player can have, one that requires a lot of rehab and work to get back.
“I said to myself ‘I’m old, I don’t want to do the rehab thing and try to be the great Shaq player.‘ … Shaq is not Shaq when he’s averaging 7/8/9 points. “
He came to Boston on a two-year contract. Shaq knew he was at the end of his career, but felt he could contribute in the first year. The second one? He planned a Shaq tour. Something like the sendoff Dirk and Wade had. He had parties and promotors set up in every city. He’d tell stories about every arena and say goodbye to the NBA in the only way that makes sense for Shaq Fu.
But the injury happened, and he knew it was all over. Danny Ainge told him the roster spot is there for him, and he should come back and play, but Shaquille felt it wouldn’t be fair towards the Celtics. If he was done, he couldn’t give them his 100%.
“I’m robbing the people, I’m robbing the Celtics. You’re only paying me a million, I don’t feel right. I’m not coming back, here’s your money back sir. Thank you very much.”
In the end, Shaq was honest with himself. He came to the Celtics to help out, and Doc told him he didn’t need to do much – just rebound and be a veteran presence. That was something he was still able to do. But in the end, he was chasing his fifth ring and he knew that wasn’t a good enough reason to stay.
“I was ring chasing, to be honest. I was ring chasing. We had a chance and I think if I would’ve got hurt and if they would’ve kept Perkins I think we would’ve won. I wanted to help Paul ’cause Paul was one of my favorite players, and I love KG.”