Posted Jul 14 2011 9:48AM
During a raucous retirement party at his Florida home in June, Shaquille O'Neal promised that his next step would be a "big one."
You wouldn't expect anything less from a man who has spent the past 19 years as the biggest personality in the sport, "The Big Aristotle" ... "The Big Shaqctus" ... "The Big Shamrock" etc., and beyond.
So how about "The Big Analyst?"
Because as promised, O'Neal's next step is a big one, now that the 15-time NBA All-Star and four-time NBA champion joins Turner Sports as a full-time analyst across its portfolio of NBA assets starting with the 2011-2012 season.
O'Neal will join TNT's Emmy Award-winning studio show alongside Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley and will also be a part of the network's exclusive NBA All-Star Weekend and NBA Playoffs coverage as a part of the multi-year agreement announced Thursday morning.
He will also be a key contributor on NBA TV and NBA.com, serving up his own brand of unique analysis and commentary throughout the regular season, as well as for The Finals, All-Star Weekend and the NBA Draft.
"I can't wait to begin my new career with Turner," O'Neal said in a statement. "Over the past several years the team at Turner has taken the NBA and entertainment, in general, to a whole new level. I'm grateful for the opportunity to join the amazing team at Inside the NBA and I hope I can further the fans experience on a regular basis."
Staying true to his entertainer roots, O'Neal's work with Turner Sports will extend beyond his work as analyst. A development deal with Turner's entertainment and animation networks will allow O'Neal to indulge many of his off-the-court passions as well. O'Neal is a member of the Screen Actor's Guild, with entertainment credits including a number of roles and executive producer credits in both television and film.
"We are thrilled to have Shaquille O'Neal join Turner Sports and our marquee roster of announcers and analysts," said David Levy, president of sales, distribution and sports for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. "His unique insights, perspective as one of the league's all-time great players and personality will be the perfect complement to our award-winning studio team of Ernie, Kenny and Charles, as well as to our programming on NBA TV and NBA.com."
O'Neal said he made a quick decision about his future, choosing the deal with Turner over several other offers, including one from ABC/ESPN. He cited the "Inside the NBA" crew as one of the biggest factors in his decision, saying that was the show he enjoyed the most during his playing days.
"It was an easy choice for me," he said during an afternoon conference call. "It was very tempting. I have tremendous amount of respect for ABC and ESPN. But Turner and TNT was the place for me. (Inside the NBA) has always been my favorite show. I love hanging out with Kenny, Charles and Ernie ... this was a deal I couldn't resist."
He'll be a welcome addition, according to his new teammates.
"The addition of 'The Big Analytical' will be terrific," Smith said in a statement. "I can't wait to make verbal passes to the most dominant center of our time."
O'Neal said he won't have any problem fitting in either, insisting that he's always been a team player and that the transition from player to analyst is one he won't have any trouble navigating.
"I have the ability and the backing to give fair criticism. The only time I have trouble with people giving criticism is when they haven't walked that walk," O'Neal said. "I've walked many walks in my 19-year career, so I think any criticism that I give should be fair."
As for a return to the court, O'Neal said he's hanging up his size 23 sneakers for good.
"I'll give you a one-word answer," he said when asked if he would play again, "No."
The man with a thousand nicknames, the "Big AARP" will only last for a few months, will surely need a few more in his new, multi-faceted role.
And if O'Neal's next 19 years are anything like the first, it should be an entertaining ride filled with all the fun and success anyone could stand.
A three-time Finals MVP, O'Neal was chosen as one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players and ranks fifth all-time in NBA scoring history (28,596 points scored). The 1993 Rookie of the Year award winner, O'Neal finished his playing career with a MVP award (2000) and was named All-NBA 14 times. He was the All-Star Game MVP three times (2000, 2004 and 2009) and also won two scoring titles (1995 and 2000).
He appeared in 1,207 regular season games, averaging 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 blocks in 34.7 minutes per contest throughout his career, which included playing for the Orlando Magic, L.A. Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics.
O'Neal finished his playing career among the NBA's all-time greats at any position while also claiming his spot at the table with the league's true giants. He'll always be mentioned in the same breath as Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as one of the greatest big men to play the game.
When O'Neal announced his retirement in June, citing "Father Time" and a nagging Achilles injury that ended his final season with the Celtics prematurely as the main culprits, plenty of league observers lamented the fact that the self-proclaimed "MDE" (Most Dominant Ever) would be missing from all of his favorite functions in the years to come.
That shouldn't be a problem now, what with O'Neal firmly entrenched on his new team.
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