- Associated Press - Friday, June 3, 2011

Leave it to Shaq.

At the start of the NBA finals, the Big Aristotle _ or whatever nickname he’s going by these days _ has managed to steal the spotlight.

Shaquille O'Neal didn’t need 140 characters. He didn’t need any punctuation or capitalization. All it took was a simple message on Twitter: “im retiring”.

With that proclamation, Shaq has been the banner headline the past few days. And there’s more to come. He will officially call it a career Friday in Orlando, Fla., an event that figures to be more party than press conference.

Now that’s how you announce a decision, LeBron.

The behemoth who ran on Diesel won four NBA titles and exits stage left as probably the fourth-best center in NBA history (behind Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain, ahead of Hakeem Olajuwan, George Mikan and David Robinson).

Shaq the Entertainer, however, has no NBA peer.

He came along at just the right time for the NBA, ready and willing to take over after Michael Jordan won the last of his six titles and the league was staggered by a devastating labor dispute.

He rapped. He made movies. He pontificated on basketball and life (even law enforcement) for whoever would listen, droning on in a low voice that was sometimes impossible to decipher but always flashing those mischievous eyes, leaving you to question whether anything he told you was to be taken seriously, even if you understood him.

We were all putty in his massive grip.

Heck, we won’t even hold “Kazaam” against him.

“I remember meeting him on the elevator my rookie year,” Dallas center Brendan Haywood was saying Thursday, looking back on their encounter during an All-Star weekend in Philadelphia, “and he asked me, ‘Are you good? Is your family good? Do you need any money?’ I was like, ‘No, I’m good Shaq, but thanks for offering.’

“He was just that type of person. He was a good person.”

Wade saw it firsthand.

“I really learned a lot from him as a professional,” Wade said. “We had some great years together. Humbled, and totally honored, to have been a teammate. But as a fan, seeing the dominance of what he did will never be forgotten.”

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