After 19 seasons in the NBA, Shaquille O’Neal, the most awesome physical presence in the sport’s history, announced his retirement today on Twitter. Listed at 7’1”, 325 pounds, O’Neal was a gentle giant — unless you stood between him and the basket. In his prime, he brought down entire backboards while winning four league titles. He also filled the pop-culture void left by the retirement of Michael Jordan in the mid 1990s, releasing rap albums, playing himself in several TV series and movies (who else could he play?), and eventually hosting a semi-successful reality show.
He also starred in several feature films, which only proved that foul-shooting wasn’t his only Achilles heel. Just out of college, he played a raw basketball recruit named Neon in 1994’s Blue Chips. In 1996, he played the rappin’ genie in Kazaam!, which still stands as one of the Top 10 rappin’ genies in cinematic history. A Superman buff, O’Neal went the superhero route the next year, playing John Henry Irons in Steel. After moving to Los Angeles to join the Lakers, he cameoed in Freddy Got Fingered — yes, that Freddy Got Fingered. Although the Academy never recognized O’Neal’s work in front of the camera, Kazaam! brought in a respectable $19 million.
O’Neal never became a movie star, per se, but his persona was as enormous as his frame, and he remains one of the most genuine and playful superstar athletes. He has publicly expressed a desire to work in law enforcement after his playing days, so his Hollywood days could, sadly, be over. If they are, which film of his stands out as your favorite?