Let's face it. As much as we'd like to think of our favorite athletes with their picture-perfect careers and pristine legacies, some of them are remembered last as terrible quitters. When you've been at the absolute top of your game, it's often hard to admit that you're done.
These days, the legends never go out with the perfect ending, like MJ's game-winning jumper against the Jazz in the '98 Finals. They quit, they waffle, they come back, they underwhelm, they quit again.
Jordan did it, Magic did it, and lord knows Favre did it about 87 times.
Will Shaq do the same?
He's certainly leaving that window of possibility open. The Hall-bound big man retired on Friday after 19 years, but he's media-savvy enough to know not to give any definite answers.
"Probably not," Shaq said when asked by Comcast SportsNet about a possible return.
Even when pressed for an explanation, he didn't offer much.
"I'll say 'probably not,'" he insisted. "You finish the sentence how you want to finish it."
There are plenty of ways to finish it. Shaq's been in the league 19 years, and part of him would surely love to make it an even 20. That was his goal when he first arrived in Boston last summer — two decades, six teams, six championships. Now he knows he's fallen short.
Shaq has accomplished nearly everything he could ever dream of, and yet he's still got unfinished business. He's still only got four rings. Tim Duncan and the Spurs have four. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers have five. Is Shaq too proud to walk away now?
His own GM thinks that quite possibly, he might be.
"Hopefully Shaq can get his body healthy and then reconsider," Danny Ainge told the Boston Herald. "I can tell you that even if he’s still out when we start next year, he's a guy I'll be making a phone call to at some time during the season.
"But he needs to stay in shape. If he's in shape and his injuries have healed, he can absolutely help somebody."
Make no mistake — Shaq has a lot of injuries right now. It's a mix of hip, leg and back injuries, plus the Achilles tendon issue that bothered him all postseason. He could barely even walk down in Miami in the second round of the East playoffs.
It's hard to imagine Shaq making a return now. He's no Jordan at this point — he's 39, his body is warn down, and he understands his basketball mortality. His era as the league's preeminent big man is over. He's come to terms with that.
Shaq's a competitor. There's no doubt about that. But it's too late for him now, and the NBA can go on without him.
Just like Shaq said Friday, there's always TNT.
What do you think Shaq will do next? Share your thoughts below.