Shaquille O'Neal thinks he'll return

Updated: August 3, 2010, 3:47 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Shaquille O'Neal believes he will be playing in the NBA next season, though the four-time champion says he will retire if a contending team doesn't make him an offer. Playing internationally is not an option.

O'Neal said Tuesday that if the time has come for him to retire, he will do so "very graciously" and "have a big party."

O'Neal
O'Neal

"I know I will play in the NBA next season," O'Neal said. "International? No. The good thing about me and my career is I came in, did it my way, did more than expected. For every athlete or every great person, there's a time when it has to end. When and if it ever ends it will be very graciously.

"We're going to have a big party. We're going to have a ceremony and the next thing I'll be waiting for is the entrance into the place where your name will never be forgotten."

The 38-year-old O'Neal spent last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He won three NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and another with the Miami Heat.

But he has struggled to find a contract on a team that can guarantee him playing time, enough money and a chance for one more championship to add to his legacy.

On Monday night, O'Neal appeared on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live and said he'd like to play two more seasons in the NBA and that the Boston Celtics would potentially be a good fit for him.

The 38-year-old O'Neal stressed to Kimmel that he's on a "730-day program," suggesting he wants to play two more years until he reaches 40. When Kimmel suggested he couldn't picture O'Neal in a Boston uniform, O'Neal responded, "The Celtics would be a good program."

Pressed if he would feel weird putting on a Celtics jersey after spending time with the Lakers, O'Neal simply shook his head and said, "No."

He all but ruled out joining LeBron James in Miami or a return to Orlando, where he began his career in 1992, with both teams not showing much interest. And he admitted this offseason has been particularly difficult floating around in free agency.

"For me, it's been a real thinking process," O'Neal said. "I came into the league very graciously and want to go out very graciously. My main thought was I would like to play for a winning franchise, somebody that's used to winning, somebody that keeps winning. Hopefully, I'll make my decision here in the next one or two days."

O'Neal was in Orlando with teen pop star Justin Bieber to promote the basketball giant's television show, "Shaq Vs." The second season of the reality competition was set to begin airing Tuesday night on ABC.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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