by Oliver Layco
Shaquille O’Neal is set to return to the house that he built tonight. No he isn’t coming out of retirement, but rather he will have his number 34 sent up to the rafters to join other Lakers legends. It’s almost been 10 years since he was traded to the Miami Heat, but Lakers Nation will never forget what he has done for our franchise. I was only 5 at the time, but in 1996 the Lakers won Shaq through free agency; coupled with the trade for a 17 year old prodigy out of Lower Merion High School this was the start of a new era in Lakers history. Admittedly, things were rocky from the start especially with the dominance of John Stockton and Karl Malone in the West. However, that didn’t stop Shaq from enjoying his new lifestyle in LA. His personality fit perfectly with his new home. He always acted like the biggest kid when he wasn’t on the court. With the arrival of the Zen Master and a shiny new arena to play in for the 1999-2000 season, Shaq truly became the most dominant player in the league. During his first season under Phil Jackson, Shaq would go on to win his lone MVP award. More importantly, he would lead the Lakers to three consecutive championships. In the process he would forge the greatest duo in NBA history with his partner Kobe Bryant. As Lakers fans, we will never lose interest in the man who has provided so many memories for us. From his 61 point night, to battles against the Queens, to his youthful personality at the championship parades he will forever be a Laker. Yet, the most memorable for myself, and many Laker faithful, will always be game 7 against the Portland Trailblazers in the Western Conference Finals. The Lakers collapsed in the series and were pushed to a game 7; then even in the game itself it looked like we wouldn’t make it. Through Shaq and Kobe, the team made a remarkable comeback which was punctuated by the alley-oop in the fourth. From there Shaq would run down the court with both hands in the air as the crowd erupted. The Lakers would hold on for the finish and secure their first of three trips to the NBA finals. The tumultuous end to his time in Los Angeles still leaves a bad taste of what could have been. Instead we try to focus on the good times and the success that he brought to the franchise. To close out, I’ll leave you with one question Can you dig it?!