LOS ANGELES (AP) — When Shaquille O’Neal visited the Forum during the summer he joined the Los Angeles Lakers, Jerry West encouraged him to look up at the retired jerseys hanging above the court.
“He said, `You can be as great as these guys,”‘ O’Neal recalled.
West’s prediction is finally official. Shaq joined Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Mikan and the rest of the Lakers’ greats Tuesday night when the club retired his No. 34 jersey in a halftime ceremony.
“I just wish Dr. Buss was here to see this, to enjoy this joyous occasion,” O’Neal said of Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who died in February. “I always hoped and prayed it would come. It was a dream come true.”
Although O’Neal rarely finds himself speechless, he’s thrilled to receive the honor he first imagined back in 1996 when he chose the Lakers.
“It gets me real emotional,” O’Neal said before the game. “Growing up in Newark, New Jersey, and my father teaching me about the game, always mentioning Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and telling me when I was a young medium juvenile delinquent that, `If you do things right, son, maybe one day you can be as great as those guys.”‘