On Thursday night, four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal witnessed the Miami Heat retire his jersey at America Airlines Arena before the team took on one of his former teams in the Los Angeles Lakers.
One of Shaq’s former teammates, Luke Walton, who is now the head coach of the Lakers, also witnessed the jersey retirement. Before the gigantic No. 32 jersey ascended to the rafters, O’Neal talked about his former Lakers teammate and that fact that he was unique for a very Shaq-like reason, via ESPN’s Baxter Holmes:
“He is probably the only rookie that I never hazed, because I hazed everybody,” O’Neal said. He added with a laugh, “The statute of limitations is up on that, so I can say that.”
One can only imagine the hazing process for rookies under a Shaq-led NBA squad. O’Neal is a practical joker as well as the biggest personality in any locker room meaning rookies likely never had it easy when it came to the hazing process.
O’Neal also praised Walton for being an “unselfish” player during his stint with the Lakers and gave his reasoning for not hazing the rookie out of the University of Arizona, via Holmes:
“He was just a nice kid,” O’Neal said. “A good looking kid. Curly hair. He was just too sweet. I didn’t want to crush him.”
Fast-forward to 2016, Walton is a first-year head coach of Shaq’s former team and well on his way to a promising coaching career. The Lakers may be a struggling at the moment as they fell to the Heat on Thursday after being up by as much 19 points, but Walton does seem to have this team on the right track after three forgettable seasons under Mike D’Antoni and Byron Scott.