Shaquille O'Neal is retiring. He announced on Twitter that he'll end his 19-year career after a disappointing season with the Celtics. He has lore in every NBA city in America, but special lore here in Sacramento.
This dude was completely unstoppable, no matter who you threw at him. He was the unsolvable puzzle. Kobe Bryant was fantastic during the great Kings-Lakers battles of the Glory Era. But Shaq? He was on another plane, just a gigantic problem, constantly. We had Vlade Divac, Chris Webber, Scot Pollard ... it didn't matter. If Shaq was on and focused, you weren't stopping him, period. In 16 playoff games against the Kings, Shaq averaged 30.7 points and 15.7 rebounds. Thirty and fifteen.
He wasn't just dominant -- he was completely hateable. He called our team the "Queens." He made fun of us, and our cowbells. Even after his prime was gone and he no longer competed for championships, he pretended he had no idea who Spencer Hawes was. He seemed to genuinely consider Sacramento a joke he wasn't in on, a mistake on the NBA map that he'd rather didn't exist.
Shaq was a total villain in Sacramento in every way, so much so that I vomited into a garbage can when I walked into work at a bar on one fine afternoon in 2004 and saw the front of the Sacramento Beesports page, emblazoned with a big ol' headline that read
I was appalled. An MVP-caliber center, a legit superstar and Hall of Famer on just the other side of his prime ... and I was appalledour fine newspaper would suggest him a potential target. That's how hateable, how much of a villain Shaq was for us. I don't think I was alone. I don't think many other fans would have clamored for a Shaq trade, were one even possible. (It wasn't.)
We can all appreciate Shaq's greatness, and be thoroughly entertained by his antics. (His feud with Kobe remains a highlight.) But in the end, I'll always remember Shaq as the BAMF that destroyed the Kings when it mattered most, the guy that didn't break our hearts in one shot like Horry, but stomped our hope like a megalith Beelzebub.
Goodbye, Shaq. Thanks for ruining our dreams.