Shaquille O'Neal is one of the most accomplished and beloved professional basketball stars in the world. He's one of the few players who has won championships playing for multiple different teams. And he has just retired. And he did it using social video. No press conference, no interview on ESPN, no sit-down retrospective… just a video for his fans, posted to Twitter. Now here is a man who understands social video.
Shaq has always entertained fans with his sense of humor and larger-than-life personality. Those same qualities helped him become one of the most popular early celebrity users of Twitter's microblogging service. So it shouldn't be too big of a surprise that the man knows how to leverage video and social media to get out his message.
Here's the Tweet Shaq published earlier today:
Since Shaq has about 3.8 million followers, it didn't take long for the news to get out into the mainstream media. But by then… it was too late for anyone to spin things or "break" the story… Shaq had already broken the news, and done it in the way he wanted to. He was able to control the message 100%. Before the age of social video, this wouldn't have been possible. Shaq would had to have held a press conference or done an interview, thereby giving up some measure of control to the reporter.
But armed with his own Twitter account and a video camera, Shaq was able to own the entire thing. Here's the video of Shaq's announcement from the new video sharing service in beta – Tout.com (we'll have to write about that another time): http://videos.tout.com/mp4/8268394ccd649c7c.mp4
Now, to be fair, Shaq actually says, "I'm about to retire" in that video… not "I'm officially retired." So it's possible we'll still see a traditional official press conference or interview. His current team, the Boston Celtics, might very well want to get him in front of a Celtics banner to give the brand a little face-time.
But again, Shaq's taken the power away from the media on controlling this story by announcing it himself. It's fitting that a player who lived and played on his own terms would find a way to retire on his own terms as well.