Congrats to Shaq! In true Shaq fashion, he stole the show last night as the Lakers retired his No. 34 jersey at halftime.
Check out the shiny suit he rocked, highlights from the ceremony & who attended the game after the jump…
*PHOTOS ABOVE IN GALLERY*
The Lakers retired O’Neal’s No. 34 jersey at halftime, with Lakers luminaries including Jerry West, Elgin Baylor and Jamaal Wilkes assembling for the ceremony. The Staples Center crowd loved Shaq, but the fans adored former Jackson, who attended what was likely his first game since walking away from the team in 2011.
Kobe Bryant taped a message for O’Neal that was shown on the video screen during the halftime ceremony.
“Congratulations to you, the most gifted physical specimen I’ve ever seen play this game with size and agility,” Bryant said to uproarious applause.
As loud as the building got for Bryant’s message, the din reached a fever pitch when the microphone was handed over to Phil Jackson.
Jackson was serenaded with multiple chants of “We want Phil!” during his brief remarks to the crowd, echoing the same chants that filled Staples Center late last year when the Lakers flirted with bringing back the 11-time NBA champion coach before unexpectedly hiring D’Antoni to replace Mike Brown.
With former coach Phil Jackson in attendance for O’Neal’s honors, Bryant put on a virtuoso performance while playing more than 47 minutes. Bryant has rested for just 79 seconds in the past two games, but he’s keeping the Lakers afloat during the latest round of injuries and setbacks in their roller-coaster season.
“I wish I could (have seen it), but this is a huge game for us,” Bryant said of the ceremony for O’Neal, his teammate on three championship teams. “I had to stay back here and get ready for the second half. We talked when I came in at halftime. We stopped and chopped it up for a couple of minutes.”
O’Neal liked what he saw from his courtside seat next to his mother. With the win, Los Angeles moved back into an eighth-place tie in the West with the Utah Jazz (39-36), who hold the tiebreaker edge on the Lakers.
“Can you dig it?” O’Neal bellowed at the start and toward the end of his remarks, echoing his cry from one of the Lakers’ championship parades.
O’Neal was asked if he had any regrets from his 19-year career that featured four championships, three Finals MVP awards, one regular season MVP, two scoring titles, Rookie of the Year and 15 All-Star appearances.
He has two: “I missed 200 games. I missed 5,000 free throws. Other than that, I had fun. I did it my way. It was a great experience.”