basketball Father Time finally catches up with the legend that is Shaquille O'Neill

A four-time NBA champion and Most Valuable Player in 2000, O’Neal made the announcement on Wednesday by posting a video on a social website. A man who enjoyed doing things his own way, it was not surprising he leaked the news in a playful, cryptic manner. “We did it. Nineteen years baby. I want to thank you very much, that’s why I’m telling you first, I’m about to retire. Talk to you soon,” he said in the message.

No formal announcement was immediately made but he told ESPN that he would hold a news conference at his home today.

The Superman tattoo on the bicep of the 19-year NBA player provided a vivid insight into the mindset of a man who, refreshingly, does not take himself too seriously. But as fun-loving as he is off the court, the 7ft 1in, 23st O’Neal was a monster on it.

Following a stellar college career at Louisiana State, O’Neal was made the No.1 overall pick by Orlando Magic in the 1992 NBA Draft. He made an immediate impact, being named the league’s rookie of the year. O’Neal spent four years with Magic before leaving as a free agent for Los Angeles Lakers, where he won three consecutive titles alongside guard Kobe Bryant. But he feuded with Bryant, and the Lakers traded him to Miami Heat in 2004, and in 2006 O’Neal, affectionately known as “Shaq”, won his fourth championship.

Since leaving Heat in 2008, O’Neal played for Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and most recently, Boston Celtics. He commemorated his signing with Celtics in 2010 by pretending to be a statue in Harvard Square. O’Neal’s antics are not eccentric or quirky; they are genuinely funny.

Among O’Neal’s many nicknames over the years have been The Big Aristotle for his acumen during interviews, The Diesel, The Big Daddy, Superman, The Big Cactus, The Big Shaqtus and The Big Shamrock. Some were coined by journalists but most were supplied by O’Neal himself.

Despite the shenanigans, he will be remembered most for his basketball skills. He averaged 23.7 points over his career, a figure stunted over the last few years as age and injuries starting taking a toll on his body. But in his heyday, few could stop O’Neal once he received the ball.

O’Neal has also lived a rich, full life off the court. He is an accomplished rapper and a part-time policeman, having gone through training with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Reserve Academy. He earned a Masters degree in business administration in 2005, further preparing for the day when he takes his basketball shoes off for the last time.

“For 19 seasons, Shaquille O’Neal was literally and figuratively an NBA giant,” its commissioner David Stern said. “On behalf of the NBA, its teams, and his millions of fans around the world, I want to thank Shaq for everything he has meant to the league and to the sport of basketball, both on and off the court.”

Jerry Buss, the owner of Los Angeles Lakers, where O’Neal won the first three of his four championship rings, also heaped praise on the centre. “Shaq had a long and amazing career, with a huge impact both on and off the court,” Buss said. “His contributions were significant to the entire NBA, but we have three championships that we wouldn’t have won without him, and we will forever be grateful for his contributions to those teams.”

However, it seems Father Time has finally caught up with the man they call Shaq.