Shaquille O'Neal Retires: Which Top NBA Stars Are Next to Go?

Joey HnathCorrespondent IJune 1, 2011

Shaquille O'Neal Retires: Which Top NBA Stars Are Next to Go?

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 18:  Shaquille O'Neal #32 of the Phoenix Suns is congratualted by his teammate Steve Nash #13 and Grant Hill #33 during the basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers during the second quarter at the Staples Center on Febr
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    In a very anticlimactic end to the career of one of the best big men in NBA history, Shaquille O’Neal has finally called it quits. He made the announcement via Twitter this afternoon.

    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.

Grant Hill

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    BOSTON, MA - MARCH 02:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks on in the first half against the Boston Celtics on March 2, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or
    Elsa/Getty Images

    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

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 26:  Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets looks to rebound during their opening night game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on October 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    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.

Jason Kidd

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    MIAMI, FL - MAY 31:  Jason Kidd #2 of the Dallas Mavericks looks to pass against the Miami Heat in Game One of the 2011 NBA Finals at American Airlines Arena on May 31, 2011 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    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

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Greg Oden #52 of the Portland Trail Blazers dunks against the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game at Oracle Arena on November 20, 2009 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    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.

Steve Nash

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    PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 13:  Steve Nash #13 of the Phoenix Suns gives thumbs up during the NBA game against the San Antonio Spurs at US Airways Center on April 13, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downlo
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    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.

Kevin Garnett

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    BOSTON, MA - MAY 09:  Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics reacts after a foul is called on the Miami Heat in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 9, 2011 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  NOTE TO USER
    Elsa/Getty Images

    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

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    DALLAS, TX - MAY 06:  Guard Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers takes a shot against the Dallas Mavericks in Game Three of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NBA Playoffs on May 6, 2011 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.  N
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    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.