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Jerry Sloan remembers coaching Shaquille O'Neal.
As an assistant coach on the 1996 Olympic team featuring O'Neal and Karl Malone, Sloan remembered the power. The sheer size. The grace with which O'Neal moved. He remembered the comedy and the jokes, and the way Shaq enjoyed basketball and everything about it.
"He had tremendous size and strength," Sloan said. "He was a fun guy to be around, and he had such agility for such a big man."
Shaquille O'Neal, his four titles, his legacy and his many nicknames over a star-studded 19 year career retired on Wednesday afternoon. He left the game via a message from Tout, a new social outlet.
"We did it. Nineteen years baby," he said in the message. "I want to thank you very much, that's why I'm telling you first, I'm about to retire. Thank you, talk to you soon."
He leaves behind a career that's sure to yield him an induction to the Hall-Of-Fame on his first try. During his 19 years, He played for six teams. Along the way he formed potent 1-2 combinations with Anfernee Hardaway in Orlando, Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles and Dwyane Wade in Miami, winning titles with the latter two and leading the Magic to their first ever championship round appearance in 1995.
"He was one of the best ever because of his size, athleticism and his ability to play in the paint," Utah Jazz power forward Paul Millsap said. "He was straight power. He could do almost anything he wanted on the court. He leaves the game as one of the greatest players ever."
The Jazz are familiar with O'Neal, having done battle with him on a regular basis when Shaq was winning titles with the Lakers. To Utah, having to defend O'Neal was a nightmare, just like it was for most of the teams in the league to cross his path.
Now the head coach of the Jazz, Ty Corbin had to come up with schemes for defending Shaq in years past when he was Sloan's assistant. Doing so was a challenge. Making it actually work when the game started was even tougher.
"You could devise all the schemes you wanted, but it was difficult because he posed so many problems," Corbin said. "Playing against him was a tremendous task. You had to try and double down on the guy, he had great hands and athletic ability. Once he got the ball in position, it was over."
In his career, Shaq won four championship rings, three Finals MVP trophies, one MVP award, and had 15 All-Star appearances. O'Neal, a two-time NBA scoring champion, is fifth all-time on the NBA's list for career points (28,596) and 12th in total rebounds (13,099). He also defined himself with a legendary sense of humor, and the reputation as one of the larger than life figures in all of sports
"There are so many things that he's done," Corbin said. "He's one of the great guys to ever play the game on and off the court."
Reporters Brian T. Smith and Steve Luhm contributed to this report
Career in review
Age • 39 College • LSU
Drafted • First overall by Orlando in 1992
Teams • Orlando, Los Angles Lakers, Miami, Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston
All-Stars selections • 15
NBA championships • 4 (Lakers 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2001-2002; Heat 2005-06)
NBA Finals MVPs • 3
Rookie of the Year • 1992-93
NBA MVP • 1999-2000
Key stats • 23.7 ppg; 10.9 rpg; 2.3 bpg; .582 FG%; .527 FT%
Source: The Associated Press