Shaquille O'Neal Retires: Which Top NBA Stars Are Next to Go?
O’Neal finishes his 19-year NBA career averaging 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game. Most importantly, he ends with four championships. Four championships are more than Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon and Karl Malone combined, but he’ll be most remembered for finishing with fewer championships than former teammate, Kobe Bryant.
In an interview with ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan, O’Neal blames a nagging Achilles injury for his retirement, citing that the recovery would have been extensive, and he didn’t want to leave the Celtics and GM Danny Ainge waiting around for him.
With Shaq now gone, who will be the next NBA star to retire?
Here are seven possible stars that could be the next to follow Shaq into retirement.
Once upon a time, Grant Hill was one of the best players in the game, showing off his skills in front of thousands at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Unfortunately, injuries derailed his career once he left the Pistons for the Orlando Magic.
Hill has recently found the fountain of youth in Phoenix, putting up solid averages and playing decent minutes.
However, Hill is one of the oldest players in the game and will most likely call it quits soon.
Yao Ming is one of the most recognized athletes in the world, and he was once the Rockets’ franchise player.
Recently, Yao’s ankles have done him no favors, causing him to miss a ton of games from 2005-2011. His 7’6” frame doesn’t appear to be able to withstand the stress of a full NBA schedule anymore.
Now a free agent, Yao will probably get one more shot to prove he can still play. After that, his career may be over.
A sure-fire Hall of Famer, the Mavericks' Jason Kidd is currently playing in his third career NBA Finals.
The 38-year-old Kidd is still a good point guard, but the reason he is still around is because he chasing that elusive championship ring.
If Dallas can knock off the Heat, Kidd may retire at the top, much like Jerome Bettis did for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006.
Greg Oden was the next big thing in the NBA, both literally and figuratively.
The No. 1 overall pick of the 2007 NBA Draft has only played one full NBA season, completely missing two other seasons.
Oden’s bad knees are preventing him from getting on the court. He has had multiple microfracture surgeries and has fractured his patella while playing for the Blazers.
Hopefully Oden can get his knees fixed so that he may resume his once promising NBA career; but if not he may be forced to retire prematurely.
Though he is one of the oldest active players, Steve Nash has continued to play at an All-Star level and lead the Phoenix Suns.
Much like Jason Kidd, the 37-year-old Nash is still chasing his first NBA championship. The Suns aren’t close to winning the title, so Nash may have to go elsewhere to win much like Gary Payton did.
Nash might have a couple more seasons left in him, but if he wins a title, or if Father Time finally catches up with him, his career may be over sooner than we think.
For the most part, Kevin Garnett has remained healthy for the Boston Celtics, only missing time due to minor injuries. He has also continued to play at a level not far from his younger days in Minnesota.
Garnett makes this list because he is 35 years old and starting to get to that age where minor injuries can turn into major ones.
Garnett isn’t the type of guy to accept a lesser role because of his age—he is too big of a competitor.
If he starts to break down, or if he wins his second title with the Celtics, Garnett could call it a career.
Kobe Bryant is the least likely on this list to retire first, though it remains a slight possibility and merits discussion.
The Lakers are now under new leadership with Mike Brown as head coach. Also, the Lakers are looking to shake up the team in the offseason to get some fresh blood in Los Angeles.
If the new-look Lakers aren’t a title contender, Bryant may choose to walk away rather than spend his last years playing for a mediocre team, or flee L.A. for a different city to win one last ring.
On the other hand, if the Lakers reload next year and win the championship, Kobe still might call it a career since he would have matched Michael Jordan’s six titles.
All in all, it will be an interesting subplot to watch next season.