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Shaquille O’Neal was on Jimmy Kimmel last night where he learned that, much to his surprise, the Los Angeles Lakers are planning on erecting a statue of him at the Star Plaza in front of the Staples Center. If it was anyone other than Shaq and any other team than the Lakers, we would think this was nothing but a publicity stunt. In Hollywood, however, learning about a statue of yourself being put up is nothing strange.
Shaq’s statue is going to be only the eighth at the Plaza, following those of Wayne Gretzky of the LA Kings, Magic Johnson of the LA Lakers, boxer Oscar De La Hoya, Lakers’ broadcaster Chick Hearn, Lakers legends Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the LA Kings’ Luc Robitaille, who got his statue in 2015.
Jeanie Buss, the Lakers President and co-owner later made a statement, saying that Shaq was a giant who accomplished a lot as a Laker and was one of the most important people in the process of getting the Staples Center built in the first place. She also added that it was The Diesel himself who broke the ground when construction began on the arena.
On Jimmy Kimmel, Shaq also got the first chance to see the rendering of what the statue is going to look like. It will represent one of his two-handed dunks much like the statue of him at Louisiana State University, showing the passion and the force which made him one of the most dominating centers of all time. It goes without saying that he liked the statue.
O’Neal signed with the Lakers in 1996, leading the team to 56 wins in his first season. In the first playoff game as a Laker, he scored 46 points but his Lakers were knocked out in the second round by the Utah Jazz. Kobe Bryant was still going through rookie growing pains and over the following few seasons, the Lakers were struggling with assembling a support cast for the two stars.
In 2000, it all clicked and the Lakers won the first of the three consecutive titles, led by one of the most dominating duos in the league history. It was Shaq and not Kobe who won the NBA Finals MVP award in all three title runs.
In 2004, after two years plagued by injury, Shaq Fu went to play for the Miami Heat, but as far as the Lakers fans were concerned, he would forever remain one of theirs.
Next year, the statue will make it official.
ICYMI: The Lakers will honor @SHAQ with a statue at STAPLES Center during the 2016-17 season!! “We look forward to having Shaq join the other legends who have been honored with statues at STAPLES Center,” said Lakers President and co-owner Jeanie Buss. “He is a giant not only in size, but also in stature and in what he accomplished as a Laker. Shaq literally broke the ground for the site, and was hugely responsible for not only getting STAPLES Center built, but for making it one of the most successful and famous arenas in the world. It’s an honor that is well deserved.”