Yesterday on Twitter, Shaquille O'Neal announced his retirement from the NBA. After 19 seasons, Shaq accumulated 28,596 points and 13,099 rebounds, along with four championship rings. He's a surefire Hall of Famer, and he will forever be considered one of the greatest centers who ever played the game.
The Los Angeles Lakers recently announced that they will retire O'Neal's number on the Staples Center wall and deservedly so. The Lakers' three-peat would not have been possible if it wasn't for Shaq. Miami will probably end up retiring his number too because he led them to their first ever title.
But what about Orlando? Should he have his number retired with the Magic, even though he only spent four years with them and left unceremoniously?
He never won a ring with the Magic, but he did put Orlando on the basketball map for numerous years. After being taken first overall in the 1992 NBA Draft, O'Neal went on to win the Rookie of the Year award and led the Magic to the 1995 NBA Finals.
He made the Magic relevant. The money he earned with the Lakers was a testament to his great years in Orlando.
Shaq shot over 55 percent in all four seasons in Orlando. In his rookie year, he averaged a career high 13.9 rebounds per game, and he averaged over 29 points in both the 1994 and 1995 seasons.
What is most impressive about O'Neal's impact on the Magic is that the team was in their infancy when they started dominating the Eastern Conference. Expansion teams generally don't start winning games until they develop their team and this usually takes awhile. Paired with Horace Grant and Penny Hardaway, Shaq and the Magic took Orlando to the finals in only their sixth season, becoming the second fastest franchise to do such a task.
Although they were swept by the Houston Rockets, and Shaquille O'Neal was hurt during most of his last year with the Magic and ended up leaving, the Magic should still retire Shaq's No. 32. If it wasn't for him, who knows how long it would've taken the Magic to put up a solid team.
Couple that situation with the fact that they play in a small market, and NBA teams relocate often compared to other sports like baseball, and we may not even have the Orlando Magic franchise today if it wasn't for Shaq. They played in an outdated arena until this season and if it wasn't for Shaq's contributions for Orlando magic, they may not have gained the fan support to keep the basketball team in Orlando. There were talks regarding relocation in the late 1990s after Shaq left. If Shaq hadn't left those talks may have come into fruition.
So retire his number. He truly deserves it. He is the pioneer of Orlando basketball. Along with Dwight Howard, he is the reason why the new Amway Center was built and why Orlando will continue to have a basketball team for the foreseeable future.