Shaquille O’Neal ranks his first NBA championship with the Lakers as the best

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first_img“That was the first time somebody told me I was good enough to look up there,” O’Neal said. “I started thinking about it then. I wanted to play my game and win. I didn’t what you guys writing about me like you write about Charles Barkley.”Instead, plenty wrote about how O’Neal dramatically changed the Lakers and Heat upon his arrival. Despite O’Neal winning three NBA titles with the Lakers (2000-2002), they traded him to Miami in the 2004 offseason for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first-round pick.Though the Lakers had concerns about O’Neal’s longevity and his tension with Kobe Bryant, Heat president and former Lakers coach Pat Riley remains surprised O’Neal became available.“You just think they are going to keep that together,” Riley said, “and run its course like the Lakers did the first time with Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and Magic [Johnson].”Shaq attack Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error MIAMI >> The towering big man held back tears as he watched the Miami Heat retire his No. 32 jersey.Shaquille O’Neal clearly relished the Heat honoring him at halftime of its 115-107 win over the Lakers on Thursday at American Airlines Arena. Yet, O’Neal offered some signals he associates himself more with the purple and gold.O’Neal considered his first NBA championship with the Lakers in 2000 as the most special. He ranked his NBA title with the Miami Heat (2006) in second place . With the Lakers unveiling his statue outside of Staples Center on March 24, 2017, O’Neal credited former Lakers general manager Jerry West for making him aware of what his legacy could be.After the Lakers acquired him from Orlando in 1996, West showed O’Neal the Lakers’ various retired jerseys.center_img The rookie hazing seemed so overwhelming that Lakers coach Luke Walton joked he needed to see a therapist. O’Neal provided a different explanation on the 2003-04 season with the Lakers.“He’s probably the only rookie I never hazed. I hazed everybody,” O’Neal said. “He’s a nice kid. He’s a good-looking kid, curly hair. He was just too sweet. I didn’t want to crush him.”O’Neal said he would “always talk about his crazy father” and former NBA center Bill Walton, who had criticized O’Neal as an NBA broadcaster. But O’Neal also liked Luke Walton because he was “definitely an unselfish player. ““He always looked for me in the game.,” O’Neal said of Walton. “He always liked to give me easy drop off passes. I tried to return the favor for him.”One of those favors included O’Neal committing an offensive foul on an opposing player that bullied Walton. “The player left me alone after that,” Walton said, laughing. “So it’s nice knowing you have Shaq having your back.”Walton also considered O’Neal “one of the best teammates I ever played with” because of his playful personality and organizing team events on trips. Lakers assistant coach Brian Shaw offered similar sentiments after playing with the Orlando Magic (1994-97) and the Lakers (1999-2003).Shaw recalled how O’Neal threw birthday parties for each other’s kids that included bungee jumping, catering from In-N-Out and a gift bag for each gift. Shaw also cherished one specific prank.“He came to the center circle at the practice facility with a towel on his head,” Shaw said. “When I first started going bald, and my hair would only grow on the back and sides, he shaved the top of his head and left the hair on the sides to imitate me. He walked around all day with no hair on the top.”Leave of absenceThrough the overnight flights and time zone changes on the Lakers’ trip, no one has felt that strain more than Lakers forward Julius Randle.Randle missed Thursday’s game in Miami so he could return to Los Angeles to be with his fiancé, Kendra, for the birth of their son, Kyden. The Lakers have not formally ruled Randle out for Friday’s game in Orlando, but he is unlikely to be available.“We try to stress the balance of what we do here,” Walton said. “It wasn’t like we forced Julius to go home. He wanted to go home to be there for the birth of his child. That is a much bigger event in the big scheme than one regular season game.”Walton also granted Randle permission to return to Los Angeles on the team’s designated day off on Sunday. Randle then took a red-eye flight back to Charlotte in time for Tuesday’s shootaround and game that evening.Randle had considered staying in Cleveland after Saturday’s game and flying to Los Angeles from there. That would have minimized travel and maximized sleep, but there were concerns about some of the logistics, including possible weather delays for flights leaving from Cleveland. Instead, Randle left Charlotte on Sunday. “If it was Game 7 of the NBA Finals, we might have to have a longer discussion about that,” Walton said. “Even then, we’d give him that freedom. That’s a special moment that he should be there for.”Walton witnessed the birth of his two children with his wife, Bre, including his son, Lawson, and his daughter, Landen.“It was pretty awesome,” Walton said.Making peaceThe gesture seemed disrespectful as Heat center Hassan Whiteside stepped over Lakers forward Thomas Robinson after charging into him. A fight appeared on the verge of breaking out as Robinson’s teammates expressed their displeasure with Whiteside’s behavior.Hence, officials gave technicals to Whiteside and Robinson with 10:54 left in the fourth quarter. Yet, Robinson and Whiteside hugged each other afterwards to show they were not angry with each other.“We were literally talking,” Robinson said. “There was so much commotion going around us that nobody heard we were just talking.”last_img

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