One of the great sports careers has come to an end. Yesterday, after 19 mostly incredible years and 4 NBA Championships, Shaquille O'Neal announced his retirement from professional basketball. His final season--with the Boston Celtics--was hampered by injuries and you really could see the end was near.

One thing that strikes me about Shaq is that even though 2010-11 was his final season, his demeanor and attitude on and off the court seemed like they were from a long bygone era. To me, it feels like today's new superstars have moved their passion for the game off the front burner; it just doesn't seem to be there. They seem to only think about the money and the glory. It never appeared that way with Shaq, a low-key individual even when he was destroying backboards with nuclear dunks or bringing down the entire stanchion, shot clock and all.

While a devotee of college basketball, I've never been a big NBA fan. And it goes back to that drainage of passion that seems to occur when these guys get into the League. But I am a big fan of greatness in any sport, and Shaq was one of the best--the greatest since Michael Jordan. And someday--likely someday soon--another player will be known as the greatest since Shaquille O'Neal. But the man who helped the NBA coin the term "hack-a-shaq" has become a legend. Yes, it's a dubious term referring to the practice of deliberating fouling a player who was lousy at the free-throw line--never a Shaquille O'Neal specialty. But he's a future Hall-of-Famer; I believe that distinction will be secure.

You know, when I think about it, maybe the writing on the wall came much earlier. When there were NBA players endorsing Reebok, Nike, Adidas, and the like, Shaq was the spokesperson for Icy Hot. When you start to worry about your aches and pains, you really can start to see the end of the road.