The Los Angeles Lakers dedicated their halftime ceremonies on Tuesday night to hoisting the No. 34 jersey once worn by the “Big Diesel”, better known as Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq is the ninth player to have the honor bestowed upon him with this franchise. He was the Lakers center from 1996 to 2003 and led LA to three NBA championships in teaming with a much younger Kobe Bryant during his time roaming the paint in the Staples Center.
O’Neal’s jersey now hangs in the rafters of that arena along with the many Laker greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Wilt Chamberlain, who all had major contributions to the legacy of one of the NBA’s most storied franchises. If there was one flaw in the ceremony, it was the noticible difference in Shaq’s jersey and the others. Apparently, someone had mistakenly embroidered O’Neal’s name on the front of the jersey instead of the back. Certainly, Bryant’s No. 24 will join that group in the near future.
Shaq has become an NBA TV analyst and is most certainly headed into the Basketball Hall of Fame when eligible. Despite the great success he enjoyed while playing for the Lakers, it was his public spats with teammate Kobe Bryant and their at times contentious relationship that intrigued the media and fans more than anything. There was always the feeling that both felt neither needed the other to win and when Shaq left Los Angeles, that Bryant was actually relieved. Most teams, like Orlando, would be devastated by the loss of such a powerful player, but Bryant never looked back.