For the big picture on the impending retirement of Shaquille O'Neal, head to SBNation.com. Many of our various NBA and college blogs throughout our network will also be chiming in with memorials and tributes, so browse around. Here, however, are a few specifically Peach State moments in memory of the long, great, hilarious and confusing career of the player who was once almost nicknamed "The Big Peach."
In 1996, Shaq won a gold medal in Atlanta's Olympic Games, scoring a pair of double-doubles along the way, which would go down as the highlight of his international career. He also won a 1994 FIBA World Championship and turned down offers to play for a handful of other international teams after Dream Team II. It was also announced shortly after the team assembled in Atlanta that O'Neal would be leaving the Orlando Magic to play for the Los Angeles Lakers. Thus, Atlanta provided the stage for perhaps the biggest moment in Shaq's career.
His dominant SEC career (SEC equals Atlanta, you'll recall) of course included all sorts of highlights and achievements and so forth, though his teams went 1-3 against the Georgia Bulldogs and his LSU squad lost a 94-91 1990 NCAA Tournament battle with Bobby Cremins' Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Moving on, here's a video of him demolishing the Tennessee Volunteers in the 1992 SEC Tournament in Birmingham, leading to a hard foul that stirred up a TRAP SO HAM even coach Dale Brown took a shot:
Speaking of demolition, I ... vaya con dios, Esteban Batista:
Of course, Shaq nearly later played for those Atlanta Hawks he often treated so mercilessly, almost coming here last offseason before taking less money to play for the Boston Celtics. Though Shaq had a pair of tenures in the Southeast Division, he only played 40 games against the Hawks, the 20th-most of any NBA team. He actually didn't destroy the Birds as badly as you might've thought, producing just (just!) 22.4 points and 10.6 rebounds against Atlanta.
There was also some story about some supposedly shady relationship between him and an Atlanta rapper named Mary Jane. I don't know anything about that. Just here to chronicle.
You can't tell the Shaq story without listing his many movie roles and clothing lines and outstanding quotes and nicknames and rap albums, all of which are extremely Atlanta ventures. What are your favorite Shaq moments?
For more on Shaq's retirement, check out SBNation.com's StoryStream.