The woes of the Miami Heat are well chronicled at this point. The team that is only two seasons removed from winning the 2006 NBA Championship has now become the worst team in the league. Maybe not record-wise, as Minnesota has one fewer win, but at least they have hope: the Heat have lost 14 straight and are completely hopeless.
Injuries to the team's two superstars and some poor personnel decisions by Pat Riley are to blame for Miami's current situation, but what can they do to turn things around? They still have Dwyane Wade, and while he's rarely healthy for anywhere close to a full season, he's still capable of carrying a team as long as he has some level of talent around him. The problem is, with an injured Shaq on the books for $20 million until 2010, there is virtually no cap room to add anyone. And this is where Shaq can return to his Superman days and save the Miami Heat.
If Shaq were to retire at the end of this season, his $20 million dollar salary would come completely off the books, allowing the Heat to go out and rebuild now, instead of two years from now. The question is, would Shaq actually do something selfless like this, when he has historically done things that only serve himself? I would say it's highly unlikely.
Let's look at this from a purely financial aspect : it's 40 million freaking dollars. I think you'd be hard pressed to find anyone -- no matter how much money they have -- that would just walk away from that kind of money. Especially someone with a $1500 a month cable bill. Combine that with Shaq's fondness for the spotlight, and I don't see him retiring for the sake of the team. Even though at this point, he would look like a real hero if he did.
UPDATE: Henry at TrueHoop was kind enough to point out to me that retiring isn't what gets the salary off the books, it's bypassing the final two years of the deal after the retirement papers have been signed that does it. Basically, Shaq needs to walk away from his contract to save the Heat, and one way to do this would be to retire after the season. But he could just as easily accomplish this by accepting a small buyout, and could still end up playing somewhere else.