By Ben Golliver
The Lakers retired Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 34 jersey during a ceremony at the Staples Center at halftime of Tuesday night’s game against the Mavericks.
O’Neal, 41, spent eight seasons with the Lakers from 1996 to 2004, winning back-to-back-to-back titles from 2000-02. He retired in 2011 after a 19-year NBA career that saw him make 15 All-Star appearances and win four titles, one MVP award and three Finals MVP awards.
The ceremony included a highlight video, a taped message from former teammate Kobe Bryant, a brief statement from Phil Jackson, the jersey unveiling led by Lakers vice president Jeanie Buss and a speech from O’Neal.
“It’s amazing how time flies,” Bryant said during the video message. “I’ve just got to say congratulations to you. The most gifted physical specimen I’ve ever seen play this game. The size and agility. Just natural talent. I just have to say congratulations. What you’ve done for this city, what you’ve meant to this city is absolutely historical, the run we had together. I know you played for other organizations, but you’ll always truly be remembered playing for one and that’s here with the L.A. Lakers. Congratulations, your number has officially been immortalized. You deserve it, man, enjoy it.”
Jackson remembered the “fun, fun, fun” he had with O’Neal before telling a pair of vignettes involving nudity.
“There are some indelible images that we shall never forget,” he remembered. “The day Shaq showed up at practice with nothing but his sneakers on, and late. And when we left Arco Arena after the seventh game against Sacramento in 2002, Shaquille showed them what a full moon really looked like. … I want to thank you for dedication, your leadership and the hard work you put in.”
Buss, daughter of former Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who died in February after battling cancer, asked her Twitter followers for a single word to best describe O’Neal.
“I got words like dominant, unstoppable, diesel, and then there were some comedians who threw in the word Kazaam,” she said. “But my two favorite words are champion and, most of all, Laker. From the bottom of our hearts we thank you for always entertaining us with your talent, sense of humor and, most of all, the winning.”
O’Neal’s speech is transcribed below.