Cuban on Shaq: 'Made NBA a better place'

MIAMI -- Shaquille O'Neal, the most dominant big man of his generation, always intimated that he'd love to play for Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks. A partnership between two of the NBA's more colorful and charismatic figures will forever be a pipe dream after the big fella announced his retirement Wednesday.

Any matrimony between the Mavs and O'Neal, who owns a home in North Texas, was always steeped more in speculation than reality even though Shaq and Cuban share a unique relationship for a player and owner that never shared the common bond of being united under one franchise. The final flirtation occurred last summer when Shaq was a free agent.

"Nothing more entertaining than answering the phone and hearing him say, 'This is Shaq,' " Cuban said via email. "As if I wouldn't know it was him calling."

Shaq wanted the full mid-level exception, about $5.8 million a season, a price Cuban was unwilling to pay for the four-time champ -- his final triumph coming with the Miami Heat at the expense of Cuban's Mavs in 2006 -- who turned 39 last March.

He eventually signed a two-year deal with the Boston Celtics for the veteran minimum. Shaq's surprise retirement announcement means he will forego the final year of his contract. A foot injury sidelined him for 45 games during the regular season. He tried to give it a go in the postseason, but the 7-foot-1, 300-plus-pounder and a man of many nicknames over his 19 seasons appeared in just two playoff games before having to bow out.

"The NBA wont ever be the same without Shaq Albert," said Cuban, using a moniker he bestowed upon Shaq during the '06 Finals. "Great guy. Shaq made the NBA a better place."