SHAQUILLE O’Neal will soon be a permanent fixture in Hollywood after the Los Angeles Lakers announced they will erect a statue in his honor at STAPLES Center.
The announcement was made in a statement released by Lakers President and co-owner Jeanie Buss.
“We look forward to having Shaq join other legends who have been honored with statues at STAPLES Center,” Buss said. “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 well deserved.”
In typical Hollywood fashion, O’Neal learned about the honor during The Jimmy Kimmel Show where he he was a guest. Kimmel said the Lakers asked him to relay the surprise to O’Neal.
“Seriously? No way!” said the outspoken big man who saw an artist’s rendering of his likeness hanging from a basketball rim after dunking a ball.
“If they invite me or if I’m good enough to be in the Hall of Fame, I’ll probably go in as a Laker,” O’Neal added.
Drafted by the Orlando Magic in 1992, O’Neal signed with the Lakers as a free agent in 1996 and made a huge impact in the eight seasons that he played with the storied franchise.
Coached by the legendary Phil Jackson and playing with a young Kobe Bryant, the trio took the Lakers to four trips to the Finals, winning three NBA championships, with the 'Diesel' amassing several individual awards that included an MVP and three Finals MVPs among other accolades.
The statue will be unveiled during the 2016-17 season and will join monuments of Hall of Famers and Laker greats Magic Johnson, Jerry West and Kareem Abdul Jabbar, hockey great Wayne Gretzky and boxer Oscar dela Hoya at the Star Plaza.