Arguably the most dominant player to ever set foot on an NBA floor, Shaquille O’Neal is set to be forever honored by the Los Angeles Lakers as a statue will be unveiled on Friday night before the team’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Shaq spent eight of his 19 NBA seasons with the Lakers with many of his greatest career moments coming in purple and gold. He won his lone regular season MVP and three NBA Finals MVPs while cementing his legacy as a Hall of Famer.
Of course, the Lakers would deal O’Neal to the Miami Heat following the 2004 NBA season with a number of different factors playing a role in the decision to move him. Though Shaq understands the business side of the NBA, he admitted that he wishes he could’ve stayed with the Lakers via Mark Medina of the LA Daily News:
“I wish it could’ve played out where I played here forever. But business is business.”
Shaq was in line for a huge contract extension, and the late Dr. Jerry Buss did not want to pay him as much as he wanted which led to a pretty public dispute. Even still, Shaq says he only wanted to be traded after then-general manager Mitch Kupchak publicly said that he was available:
O’Neal maintained he “didn’t really want to get traded.” But he said his sentiments changed when then-General Manager Mitch Kupchak said publicly the Lakers would make O’Neal available in trade talks.
The trade ultimately worked out for both sides as Shaq won an NBA title with the Heat in 2006 while the Lakers would rebuild around Kobe Bryant and win back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010.
Now, both sides are past that, and many Laker legends will be in attendance to see Shaq become the eighth person to have his statue put outside of Staples Center.