In the hours before meeting with the media to discuss his decision to retire after 19 NBA seasons, Shaquille O'Neal thanked the Los Angeles Lakers for planning to retire his No. 34, said he won't pursue a coaching career in the league and likely will have Achilles tendon surgery.
O'Neal, 39, was interviewed Friday on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" in the lead-up to his afternoon news conference from his Orlando, Fla., home. He announced his retirement Wednesday.
"I would like to thank the Laker organization for thinking of me," said O'Neal, adding he spoke Thursday with Lakers owner Jerry Buss and vice president Jeannie Buss.
Asked if he would one day go into coaching, O'Neal said, laughing, "No way. If I had to deal with players like me I wouldn't make it as a coach."
A larger-than-life personality, O'Neal retires with career averages of 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 blocks per game on 58.2 percent shooting, but his numbers jumped to 27 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.5 blocks in 514 regular-season games played in Los Angeles.
One of the game's greatest centers considers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to be the best to ever play the position. And, excluding himself from the conversation, O'Neal considers Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson to be among the top five centers of all time.
"Just to have my name mentioned next to those guys is a blessing," O'Neal said.
He took them from the lottery to the playoffs in two years, and then led them to the NBA Finals in his third year before they were swept by the Houston Rockets.
O'Neal then signed with the Lakers in 1996 and had his greatest success there, winning three titles alongside Kobe Bryant and coach Phil Jackson.
But amid tension between O'Neal and Bryant over credit for the team's success, O'Neal was traded to the Heat in summer 2004, fresh off a loss to the Detroit Pistons in the Finals.
A persistent Achilles injury, however, prevented him from fulfilling the terms of the deal. He played in only two of Boston's final 35 regular-season games.
If he does have surgery, O'Neal said he would take time to heal before launching the next phase of his business career. His body of work included rap records, movies, a lengthy business portfolio and an even lengthier history of philanthropic deeds.
"A professor at LSU once told me, 'Big guys don't sell.' I wanted to dispel that," he said. "I've always been a class clown. Everything you see with me is real."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.