Shaq Retires: Shaquille O'Neal's Most Unstoppable Playoff Series

John ValentovicAnalyst IJune 1, 2011

16 Jun 2000:  Shaquille O''Neal #34 of the Los Angeles Lakers guards against Sam Perkins #14 of the Indiana Pacers during the NBA Finals Game 4 at the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana.  The Lakers defeated the Pacers in overtime 120-118. The Pacers defeated the Lakers 120-87.  NOTE TO USER: It is expressly understood that the only rights Allsport are offering to license in this Photograph are one-time, non-exclusive editorial rights. No advertising or commercial uses of any kind may be made of Allsport photos. User acknowledges that it is aware that Allsport is an editorial sports agency and that NO RELEASES OF ANY TYPE ARE OBTAINED from the subjects contained in the photographs.Mandatory Credit: Ezra O. Shaw  /Allsport
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Shaquille O'Neal announced his retirement from basketball on Wednesday, putting an end to his illustrious 19-year career.

Although O'Neal struggled with both inconsistency and injuries over the course of the last few years, it won't take away from his Hall of Fame career. 

O'Neal, 39, is a four-time NBA champion, was named an All-Star 15 times, was also named one of The NBA's 50 Greatest Players and hold numerous other records.  He also has three NBA Finals MVP's and three All-Star game MVP's.

Given the fact that O'Neal missed a total of 74 games during his final two seasons and looked like a shell of his former self really since 2006, it can be easy forget just how dominant Shaq was during his prime.

From 1992-2001, "The Big Diesel" averaged 28 points or more per game five times.  He was a beast on the boards, could block shots, and rarely could be contained.  He did struggle from the free throw line throughout his career, and if it weren't for those struggles, his numbers could have been that much better.

It was normal for O'Neal to put up eye-popping numbers during the regular season, but Shaq always took his play to another level during the postseason.  He averaged 24.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game, playing in a total of 216 playoff contests.  He also had three years where he averaged over 30 points per game in the playoffs.

So which playoff series was Shaq's best?  Well, with 216 playoff games played, a total of 8,099 minutes played and 5,250 points scored, it's a tough question to answer.

But fear not.  I have an answer for you.

O'Neal, who was drafted first overall by the Orlando Magic in 1992, spent four tumultuous years in Orlando, making the playoffs three out of those four years but never winning a championship.  After his contract with the Magic expired in 1996, he decided to move on and sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.

During his first three years with the Lakers, Shaq continued to astound, but still was without a ring.

That all changed in 2000.

That year, O'Neal averaged 29.7 points and 13.6 rebounds per game during the regular season, and kicked it into another gear during the postseason.

After needing all five games to oust the Sacramento Kings in the first round, the Lakers easily disposed of the Phoenix Suns in five games to reach the Western Conference Finals.  Although it wasn't easy, the Lakers were able to defeat the Portland Trail Blazers in seven games to advance to the NBA Finals, where they would face Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers.

What happened from there was simple: Shaq took over.

In Game 1 of the series, O'Neal racked up 43 points and 19 rebounds as the Lakers cruised to an easy victory.  It was more of the same in Game 2, as O'Neal posted 40 points and 24 rebounds as the Lakers won again.

The Lakers took the floor in Game 3 without Kobe Bryant, and the Pacers were able to get their first win of the series.  Shaq didn't go down without a fight, however.  He was able to keep the team close with his 33 points and 13 rebounds, but it wasn't quite enough.

In Game 4, the Lakers were able to get back to their winning ways and take a commanding 3-1 series lead.  Although Bryant proved to be the hero in their overtime victory, O'Neal was unbelievable again, tallying 36 points to go along with 21 rebounds.

Los Angeles dropped Game 5, but headed back home, looking to close out the series.  And that's exactly what they did.

Led by Shaq's third 40-point game of the series, the Lakers beat the Pacers, winning their first of three consecutive NBA championships.

O'Neal was named the MVP of the Finals, and finished the series averaging 38 points, 16.7 rebounds and 2.7 blocks during the six games.  In doing so, he was able to get the monkey off his back and win his first title. 

Shaquille O'Neal had countless memorable moments, big plays, and dominating performances in his career, but there was nothing quite like the 2000 NBA Finals.

Although his playing career stopped on Wednesday, he couldn't be stopped on his quest for his first ring.