Photo Credit: Michelle Johnson

Today (Mar. 9) is the 20th anniversary of the death of Christopher Wallace aka Notorious B.I.G aka Biggie Smalls.  As part of a feature for The UndefeatedJustin Tinsley asked several Los Angeles area athletes about what they were doing around the time Biggie was shot and the impact his death had on the city.

Shaquille O’Neal had previously recorded a song with Big and the two were good friends.  Shaq was also on the back end of his first season with the Los Angeles Lakers.  The night of Biggie’s murder, Shaq was supposed to attend a Soul Train Music Awards after-party with Big but the NBA star slept through the night and was awoken by a phone call from his mother.  To this day, Shaq ponders if maybe things would’ve gone differently had he been with Biggie on that fateful night.

Shaq had run into Biggie outside a tattoo parlor on Sunset Boulevard. “Yo, man. Be careful,” he told Biggie. Shaq, speaking via phone, says the light warning was a reference to the rapper’s presence in Los Angeles only six months after the murder of Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas.

If Biggie was concerned about his safety in Los Angeles, he didn’t let on. “Yeah, yeah,” Biggie said. “I’m good. But come to my party.” The bond between the two men extended beyond their own respective levels of notoriety. I’m slamming n—–s / Like Shaquille, B.I.G. rapped on 1994’s “Gimmie The Loot,” a cut featured on his debut, Ready To Die.

“I don’t say I could’ve prevented it,” said Shaq. “I was just saying … if I was out there by the car, would they still have fired? That’s the only thing I would say to myself.” Shaq’s been pondering this, has been haunted by that night for 20 years. “I don’t wanna make it seem like I could’ve saved him,” he said again. “I don’t wanna make it seem like if I was there, the shooters wouldn’t have shot. If I was there by the truck, after we all left and I’m dapping him up, would they still have shot?”