I remember the first time I saw Jermaine O'Neal play in person like it was yesterday. Specifically, the eye-opening spin move in the lane for an easy bucket during a late-November win over the Washington Wizards remains a vivid visual.
J.O. was only 22 but already starting his fifth season in the NBA with a fresh start in Indiana after the Pacers traded fan-fav Dale Davis for the young, dynamic big man in an effort to rebuild on the fly after reaching the NBA Finals with an aging front court the prior season.
Now at age 35, J.O. is back at the Fieldhouse to play against the Pacers with the Golden State Warriors for perhaps the final time. When the Pacers were playing at Golden State, David Benner mentioned a chat with both Dale Davis and J.O. which had O'Neal revealing his plans to retire.
Caught up with two former Pacer All-Stars at halftime in Oakland: the retired Dale Davis and soon to be retired (his words) Jermaine O'Neal— David Benner (@PacersDMB) January 21, 2014
"Soon" leaves the actual retirement date in flux, but in January, soon certainly seems to indicate that this is J.O.'s last go around. Also, this story today in the San Jose Mercury News has all signs pointing toward J.O. calling it a career when his season ends with the Dubs.
Long gone are the quick spin moves, slowed down by 17 years in the league and continual knee issues. Those knee issues and J.O.'s struggles to suit up frequently enough, were big factors in the Pacers eventually trading J.O. to Toronto in a deal that included a draft pick the Pacers used to select Roy Hibbert.
There are plenty of layers to the life and times of O'Neal's career with the Pacers, but when he was on the court and healthy, J.O. as and All-Star big man who was capable of making plays that raised many an eye brow. So if the tea leaves are correct, this may be your last time to show your appreciation for the highlight moments J.O. delivered while wearing blue and gold.
Hey, maybe this won't be J.O.'s last game at the Fieldhouse and we'll see him again for a couple of Pacers' wins in the NBA Finals.
Here are some classic highlights from J.O.'s time with the Pacers. Please turn the sound off if you are easily offended by a NSFW soundtrack to the vid.