By A.Sherrod Blakely
ORLANDO, Fla. When you look at the many vignettes that form a collage of sorts to Shaquille O'Neal's illustrious NBA career, no one event can truly serve as his defining moment.
But there's one in particular that sticks out not so much for how it defined O'Neal, but rather defined how O'Neal would go about becoming one of the greatest players ever.
Early in his career, he had a shoe deal with Reebok.
They had a number of ideas for commercials.
O'Neal hated them all.
Eventually he convinced them that his idea was the way to go.
"That was the beginning of me doing it my way," O'Neal said in an exclusive one-on-one interview with Comcast SportsNet shortly after announcing his retirement on Friday from the NBA after 19 seasons.
In the commercial, O'Neal included legendary centers such as Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as well as Celtics legends Bill Walton and Bill Russell.
"The reason I put those great centers in there, was because I wanted people to look at me in that light," O'Neal said. "I knew I had big shoes to fill, but I wanted people to say, 'OK, this guy's coming in saying he's going to be with those guys, show me.' That's what I did. I went to work."
Did he ever.
In 19 NBA seasons, only four players (Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Michael Jordan and Chamberlain) amassed more points than O'Neal who scored 28,596. His 13 seasons of being a 20-point, 10-rebound player is unmatched.
"He was the most dominant big man of his era," Celtics teammate Jermaine O'Neal told CSNNE.com. "When you talk about the top five or 10 players all-time, Shaquille O'Neal has to be on that list for all that he's accomplished not only when you look at the numbers, but when you look at the championships, too."
O'Neal has won four NBA titles, taking home NBA Finals MVP honors on three such occasions.
If not for a right Achilles injury that limited him to a career-low 37 games this past season with the Celtics, O'Neal would likely be suiting up for a 20th NBA season.
While he has no plans to come out of retirement, O'Neal wouldn't completely shut the idea on the notion, either.
He says he'll "probably not" return to the NBA.
When pressed about it, he said, "I say probably not, you finish the sentence how you want to finish it."
Regardless of whether he continues his iconic lifestyle off the basketball court, the way he goes about doing it won't change.
He'll do it his way.