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Shaq the beloved showman gets his number retired by Lakers

Apr 3, 2013, 12:21 AM EDT

Fans wear jerseys in honor of former Los Angeles Lakers player Shaquille O'Neal, given as they entered the arena during the national anthem before the NBA game between Lakers and Mavericks in Los Angeles Reuters

LOS ANGELES — Before the Lakers spent an extra-long halftime Tuesday night to send Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey to the rafters, Shaq was telling a story about his first NBA game with his father. That was back when the good seats were $20 a pop and his dad splurged.

“We went to the game and it was terrible. And on my way back he was so upset and he was like, ‘I spent all this damn money and these guys didn’t put on a show’ and he grabbed me and was like, ‘If you ever make it to this level, these parents pay a high price for these kids to come to the game make sure you make it enjoyable. Make sure you put on a show.’

“So that’s why I’ve always tried to be a showman, because I realize it’s real. Especially now when the tickets are very high priced, so I’ve always wanted to put on the show for the people, for the kids, for the dads in the stands.”

He did.

Combine that big personality with the big stats and the big rings and you see why Shaq was beloved in Los Angels like few other Lakers. Ever.

Which is one of the reasons Los Angeles rushed his jersey retirement at Staples Center — usually the Lakers don’t put a jersey in the rafters until the players is elected to the Hall of Fame, but as that is a foregone conclusion for the Diesel (or whichever of the hundreds of nicknames he had you want to go with) he had it done Tuesday night.

There were a handful of tributes to Shaq.

Kobe Bryant called Shaq, “The most physically gifted physical specimen I have ever seen play the game” and said he was huge for the city.

“Fun. Fun. Fun. We had some fun,” said Phil Jackson (whose ovation was louder than Shaq’s — best Mike D’Antoni stayed in the locker room for the “we want Phil” chants). Jackson recounted “the day Shaq showed up to practice with just his sneakers on. And late.” Or when he mooned the fans in Sacramento.

Jackson finished by thanking Shaq for his hard work and dedication — which was a nice touch because, let’s be honest, that’s not Shaq’s reputation. But you don’t get to be where Shaq is on the all-time lists without being professional when it matters.

When it was his turn to speak Shaq said his one wish was that Jerry Buss could be there. He thanked Jerry West both for bringing him in and pointing up to the rafters of the old Fabulous Forum (where the Lakers played at the time) and saying if he did things right his name could be up there.

And of course, Shaq was the showman.

“Coach (Jackson) I got a confession to make,” Shaq said. “You gave me a lot of weirdo books to read. I’d like to thank my good friend Cliff Notes for helping me with those.”

The crowd ate it all up. Los Angeles fans always did with Shaq. He’s a showman who fits the Hollywood city like few others ever could.

  1. rodge1 - Apr 3, 2013 at 12:33 AM

    Be careful Shaq, Kobe might demand Laker management to trade your number.

    • fanofevilempire - Apr 3, 2013 at 6:56 AM

      don’t forget the coast to coast at the all star game. he had crazy handle.
      how can you allow a defensive player to place his fore arm across the
      back of the offensive player when guarding?
      Shaq will be mentioned and argued as the greatest at his position, to the
      BIG Diesel, ” can you dig it?

  2. timb12 - Apr 3, 2013 at 12:38 AM

    Greatest big man of all time. Everything included, on the court and off the court.

  3. loungefly74 - Apr 3, 2013 at 12:42 AM

    …will forever be a fan of Shaq. he did so much for the Lakers winning 3 titles. (in a row, folks…let that sink in) he brought the Lakers back to the forefront of the league. i’m very happy for Shaq. (to those confused…im a fan giving respect to a player who brought a lot of happiness to my team…looking at you PH53, schools in session, son.)

    • asimonetti88 - Apr 3, 2013 at 1:49 AM

      Shaq passes the eye test where you say, wow this guy was incredible, but you look at the numbers and it only reinforces it. In 8 years with the Lakers, he averaged 27 PPG on 57.5% FG, 11.9 RPG and 2.5 BPG. He even averaged 3.1 APG. He had 26 40 point games, 2 50 point games, won an MVP, three Finals MVPs, 2 All-Star Game MVPs, a scoring title, three championships… the guy is incredible and so obviously deserving of having his number retired. Not just one of the best Lakers ever, but one of the best period. I liked what Kobe said though, he played for other organizations, but he’ll always be remembered for what he did in LA.

  4. yousuxxors - Apr 3, 2013 at 1:47 AM

    shaq was so much fun to watch.

  5. tuberippin - Apr 3, 2013 at 1:50 AM

    Growing up, I was never a Shaq fan, which is odd since I hail from the same town/region he grew up in (Brick City represent!). I thought he was egotistical, and being a Laker, I did not like him.

    Then, when I was eleven or twelve years old, I went with my dad to see the Lakers play the Nets at the Meadowlands in the NBA Finals. I can remember being a big fan of the Jason Kidd-led Nets, but that night, Shaq completely dominated the game. He pushed Todd MacCulloch around like a toy and had his way with both Kenyon Martin and Aaron Williams (let’s not even mention Keith Van Horn).

    After that night, I had a newfound respect for O’Neal, and it’s only grown as the years have progressed. He’s one of my favorite athletes of all time. The things he did on the court, the things he did for his community in Newark as well as in the areas he played, the humor he brought to the game, all of it. He might not be incorrect in saying he’s the last great NBA center. They don’t make ‘em like The Big Diesel anymore.

    Also, has there ever been a more nicknamed athlete than Shaq? I mean…Shaq (“if they can’t say Shaquille, then make ‘em say Shaq”), Superman, The Big Diesel, The Big Aristotle, MDE, The Big Field General, The Big Shamrock, The Big Cactus, The Shaqtus, The Big Baryshnikov, Wilt Chamberneezy, The Big Deporter, Osama bin Shaq….

  6. asublimeday - Apr 3, 2013 at 2:11 AM

    Those highlights were absolutely nasty, as was fat boy during his time with the Lakers.

  7. eboneseagles - Apr 3, 2013 at 6:25 AM

    Yo his new tv show should also be retired…

  8. davidly - Apr 3, 2013 at 6:34 AM

    I didn’t like his game when he came into the league–backing his fat @ss down and bowling over his defender for a dunk was essentially a carte blanch charge on every play around the circle, and nobody could defend it with any consistency, except for maybe Rodman and Olajuwon, who were gone by the time he settled in LA.

    That said, he did at least develop some post moves and an array of medium range shots. Too bad he didn’t stay with the Lakers. Remember when young teams with the same essential line-up could win it all, miss the finals a couple of years, and then get back to win it again? Those days are gone; I think Shaq’s move to Miami is representative of the end of that era.

  9. paulhargis53 - Apr 3, 2013 at 6:46 AM

    timb, greatest big man of all time?!?!
    who let you stay up waaaay past your bedtime? You CAN’T be that dumb can you?

    lounge, 3 in a row…..wow…..when they do. 8 in a row, get back to me.

    What you typed about shaq was fine, as long as you weren’t crying while you did it, young lady.

  10. saint1997 - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    That story about Shaq’s dad is great. I love hearing the backstories of players. Guys like Jimmy Butler and DJ Mbenga and soon to be Ben McLemore have had phenomenal paths to the NBA and yet people just judge based on their stats and forget the wealth of amazing stories in almost every player. Gives great perspective into what drives them every day, knowing where they came from.

  11. paulhargis53 - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:32 AM

    timb: Greatest center of all time?! Really?!
    You are joking right? Just another in the long line of delusional lakers fans….

    Wow, a whole 3 in a row…..that’s cute.
    Get back to me when they hit EIGHT in a row.

    Lounge, as long as you didn’t cry little girl, I have zero problem with you paying your respects to Shaq.

    Something tells me you did cry though, you’re just that type of idiotic fan….

    • omniusprime - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:57 AM

      Speaking of little girls Pauline, you shouldn’t bring that up considering what a big sissy you are. You’re the most arrogant and ignorant of all posting here. Now go back to your little basement hole and STFU!

  12. omniusprime - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:56 AM

    Shaq was all class last night, then again he was all class during his reign as one of the greatest big men of all time. As always he was bigger than life, just as he played when he got to LA. Now that was a ceremony to show Dwight Howard what he could be looking forward to in his future if he dedicated himself to being the best center he can be.

    Phil Jackson, we sure had some fun with the greatest coach of all time. I’m glad the Laker fans gave him a proper reception, chanting “We Want Phil” loud enough so that moron who failed to rehire him earlier this season could understand how much Laker fans hate him. Jeanie Buss was all beauty and class as she introduced Shaq. A shame she isn’t running the show instead of her idiot brother.

    Thanks Shaq!!! Thanks Dr. Buss!!! Fire Dumbtoni!!! We Want Phil!!!

  13. paulhargis53 - Apr 3, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    Wow prime, on 2 different threads, again with Pauline?! Lame,lame,lame.

    And then to tie it up with go back to the basement? Niiiccee!

    Retire Kobe!! We want a 1st round draft pick!!! RIP lakerluver!!!!

    • musician0785 - Apr 3, 2013 at 12:57 PM

      8 in a row? and when was this? 1960? 1970? lmaoooooo way to stay relevant celtics fan……

  14. datcrazybok - Apr 3, 2013 at 9:27 AM

    Is it still spring break? Didn’t realize the kids hadn’t gone back to school yet.

    Anyways, Shaq was as dominating as anyone during my lifetime. If you could have given Shaq Jordan’s work ethic and desire, we’d be talking about the greatest ever. With that being said, we’re not talking about the greatest ever. I’m glad I got to see him play though, and enjoy his personality.

  15. paulhargis53 - Apr 3, 2013 at 1:30 PM

    Turd, it still happened, didn’t it?
    8 in a row, 11 in 13 years.

    If the lakers were/are so great, how come they didn’t do it?.

    lakers last won in 2013- 3 years ago.

    lakers 16
    5 recent
    6 in the 70s/80s
    5 in Minnesota- in the 50s

    17> 16 still.

  16. matsci2 - Apr 3, 2013 at 1:53 PM

    Most overrated player in NBA history. Sorry, but running over your defenders while the officials keep their whistles in their pockets doesn’t make you a great talent. That’s why he dominated, not because he was great. If they had called fouls on him, he would have been Greg Kite.

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