By A. Sherrod Blakely
Shaquille O'Neal was among the first professional athletes to utilize social media as a means of connecting with his enormous fan base.
So it was only fitting that the 19-year veteran would announce his retirement - to his fans - utilizing a video on Tout.com.
"We did it," O'Neal said in the video which he also linked to via Twitter. "Nineteen years, baby. I thank you very much. That's why I'm telling you first. I'm about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon."
O'Neal was hoping to play a 20th season, but the right Achilles injury that limited him to a career-low 37 games this past season, proved to be too difficult for him to recover from enough to help the C's next season.
Speaking with Jackie MacMullan at ESPNBoston.com, Shaq said, "I really, really thought about coming back, but this Achilles is very damaged and if I had it done the recovery would be so long we'd have same outcome as this last year -- everyone sitting around and waiting for me.
"I didn't want to let people down two years in a row. I didn't want to hold Boston hostage again.
"I'm letting everybody know now so Danny (Ainge) and the organization can try to get younger talent. I would love to come back, but they say once the Achilles is damaged it's never the same. I don't want to take that chance."
The news of his retirement did not catch most off guard.
Ainge, the Celtics' president of basketball operations, has said earlier that he anticipated O'Neal not returning next season.
However, Ainge declined to comment Wednesday afternoon because he had not yet heard from O'Neal directly that he would in fact be retiring.
In addition to playing just 37 games this past season, O'Neal was limited to just 12 minutes - total - in the playoffs.
Even with all the physical issues O'Neal dealt with this past season, that won't take away from his legacy.
"He's the most dominant player I've played with or against, hands down," said Celtics center Jermaine O'Neal, who like Shaquille, was limited this past season due to a variety of injuries.
Drafted by the Orlando Magic with the No. 1 overall pick in 1992, O'Neal came into the league with larger-than-life expectations.
He didn't disappoint, averaging 23.4 points,13.9 rebounds and 3.5 blocks per game in route to winning the league's rookie of the Year award.
From there, his dominance - much like his stature globally - continued to grow.
Unable to win a championship in Orlando, O'Neal signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996 and went on to win three titles with the Lakers. He won a fourth title in 2006 with the Miami Heat.
In addition, O'Neal was a 15-time all-star, a three-time NBA Finals MVP and league MVP in 2000.
His 28,596 career points rank fifth all-time in NBA history while his 2,732 career blocked shots, ranks 7th all-time.
And while some might focus on the way the 39-year-old's career ended, players like Jermaine O'Neal who played with and against him, have a different take on the matter.
"He didn't go out the way he would have liked, but he's got nothing to be ashamed of," J. O'Neal told CSNNE.com. "He's an icon that will never be forgotten."