On April 2nd 2013 the Los Angeles Lakers retired Shaquille O’Neal’s number 34 jersey. The ceremony took place during half-time of a crucial play-off race game the Lakers had against the Dallas Mavericks.
With all the celebrity and Laker Hall of Famers in attendance, including Phil Jackson, it was only fitting that Kobe Bryant put on a performance of note finishing with a 23 point, 11 rebound and 11 assist triple double. Bryant was not present at half-time for the ceremony preferring to rather use the time to prepare for the next half of the game. This was read rather under-handily by media as it was a well-known secret that the two (Shaq and Kobe) were not be best of buds.
Even though there was a wardrobe malfunction with the jersey that was used for the retirement having the text “O’Neal 34” on the front. The half-time ceremony served as a great opportunity for the Laker family to remember the glory days of “The Shaq Diesel-Big Aristotle-Superman”. The man whose size was only maybe amassed by the number of nicknames he had was the dominant force, with Bryant, that led the Lakers to a 3peat between the years 2000-2002.
Shaq’s NBA career though did not start in LA but rather in Orlando where his was the first draft pick for the Magic in 1992 and also won the Rookie of the Year Award averaging 23.4 points and 13.9 rebounds. His time with the Lakers began in 1996 after four seasons with the Magic. It would take an additional three seasons in LA and a new coach by the name of Phil Jackson for Shaq to get his first ring in the year 2000. In the 3peat that followed he was named MVP in all three finals, with the last one being a joint award with Kobe Bryant.
The supposed rift between Shaq and Kobe is said to be the reason why in 2004 Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat. It took until 2006 for Shaq to have another taste at a Finals Championship as he helped Dwayne Wade and the Heat to its first ring. The next two seasons would be dramatically unsuccessful for the Heat which led to the trade of the Big Aristotle to the Phoenix Suns in February of 2008.
His one season in Phoenix during 2008-2009 would prove to be one of his least successful as he featured in a team that didn’t make the play-offs for the first time since he was a rookie. In 2009 he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers with hopes of helping LeBron James win a ring. Unfortunately, due to multiple injuries, Shaq was not able to be as much of a factor as he had hoped. The Cavaliers would end up getting eliminated in the second round and Shaq became a free agent.
Shaq played his last season in the NBA as a Boston Celtic where he announced his retirement on June 1st 2011. He was the 9th player and 10th overall jersey to be hang from the Lakers rafters with that of legendary announcer Chick Hearn also among those of NBA legends Wilt Chamberlain (who was the first) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to name a few.
Shaquille O’Neal’s record with the Lakers: 8seasons, 27ppg, 11.8rpg, 3titles.
Shaquille O’Neal’s record with other teams: 11seasons, 21.2ppg, 10.1rpg, 1title.
Written By: @RA_Mollo