The Los Angeles Lakers will retire Shaquille O'Neal's jersey before their game against the Dallas Mavericks tips off on Tuesday night, which means a career retrospective is in order.
While the Lakers scrap for the final playoff seed in the Western Conference, the organization will raise Shaq's No. 34 jersey to the rafters in a final, singular moment of triumph for a man who is perhaps one of the three most recognizable basketball players of all time.
After deciding that the West Coast—fame, fortune, fun and history—was more appealing than staying with the Orlando Magic past his rookie contract, Shaq was welcomed to Los Angeles with open arms.
The team hadn't reached the NBA Finals since 1991. After decades of George Mikan, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and Magic Johnson, Los Angeles was suddenly mediocre.
O'Neal jumped to L.A. in 1996, bringing the Lakers three championships over the course of the next eight seasons. Not only did he become one of the most dominant forces in NBA history, but his dynamic personality made him an easy person to like.
The time frame I want to revisit and discuss were his years in Los Angeles: Shaq's era.
It seemed all too fitting. Just a day before Shaquille O'Neal officially signed with the Lakers, Kazaam was released. Shaq went Hollywood just before coming to play basketball in Hollywood.
I know what you're thinking: "Shaq was in Blue Chips long before Kazaam was ever released." But Blue Chips was a basketball movie; Kazaam was a Shaq movie.
Not only did it transition Shaq from being an East Coast power to a West Coast power overnight, but the style of movie showed off why he was coming to the Lakers.
Shaq was available to make a movie about a genie. Every bit of the film existed because he was on board. It's a creation because of Shaq, just as the Lakers' dynasty was.
The movie was a train wreck, but it's still a guilty pleasure I'll leave on longer than I probably should. There's a cheesy delight to it that has made the movie whimsical and almost classic.
If there's one thing we learned about Shaquille O'Neal, it's that he loves the camera. He lives on it almost as much as he lived on dunking over Arvydas Sabonis in the late '90s.
One of his most famous clips—which went viral before going viral was even a thing—was his song to Vlade Divac to the tune of the Cheers theme. This was during a time when the Lakers and Kings were the most heated rivalry in the game.
Shaq gives former flopping foe Divac a piece of his mind, taunting him after the Lakers beat the Kings in Sacramento and dragging out the end note as he sings, "You need to go where people know your naaaaaaaaammmmeeeee!"
Many may remember waiting for this video to download through the incredibly slow dial-up connection just to see what everybody was talking about.
Arguably, Shaq's best game ever came after Allen Iverson showed the Lakers in Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals that he was going to do whatever it took to turn the final round into the A.I. Show.
Shaq retorted in Game 2 with a 28-point, 20-rebound, nine-assist, eight-block night against the 76ers in front of a nervous home crowd. Lakers fans were relieved that they ended up with a 1-1 series tie after Iverson's 48 points spoiled Shaq's 44-point performance the night before.
Not only was Shaq swatting shots at every interval, but he was dropping passes across the lane to Horace Grant and tossing sound-barrier-breaking passes out to the perimeter.
The 76ers couldn't do anything but watch as he and Kobe combined for 59 points in Game 2.
The Lakers went on to win the next three games. The 76ers never stood a chance past the third game in the series.
During the victory parade for the Lakers' second consecutive championship in 2001, Shaq took to the microphone as he has been known to do following the addition of new trophies to his collection.
The only problem is that everybody on the Lakers was there with him, ready to dance around and pump the crowd up—including Mark Madsen.
Shaq's deep drone gets the people going crazy as he busts out in his own rendition of Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock's "It Takes Two." And Madsen, just like the rest of the Lakers, starts dancing.
He has a T-shirt tucked into jeans, and his dancing consists mostly of elbows, hips and knees thrusting and gyrating. It may be cringe-worthy, but at least he's having a good time.
Plus, we've got to give credit to Shaq for his rap being inspiring enough to get Madsen so pumped up that he couldn't resist himself. Without that, we wouldn't have this chunk of video gold.
If you were to attempt to sum up Shaq's career in a single video clip, this is about as close as you could come. There are few out there that combine the hilarious, borderline-egotistical and post-dominating Shaq all in one 100-second clip.
Shaq gets the ball in the post and throws his enormous backside into Chris Dudley, who does everything possible not to foul the bigger man or get completely embarrassed in the process. Once in position, Shaq unleashes the world's largest drop-step and dunks through Dudley.
It would have ended right there, only Shaq thrusts into Dudley on the dismount. In one smooth motion, he shoves him to the ground. A bit of a scrum follows after Dudley chucks the ball at Shaq, but nothing substantial ever comes of it.
Making this video even more epic is the fact that the commentary is only available in Spanish. Maybe it's just us, but we think that makes this dunk even more legendary.
Whether he's playing with a Karl Malone puppet, giving a convocation address to a group of recent graduates or just cussing on live television, Shaq always seemed to give us something to talk about the next day.
It's the reason he was always the postgame center of attention, and it's why he gave himself the "Big Aristotle" moniker. Thankfully for us, somebody took the time to compile some of his best.
I'll go ahead and throw out a few of my favorites:
"I weigh 330,000 pounds…I’m the NBA’s best NFL player, and I’ve always been the sexiest seven-footer in the NBA—for 12 years running." (When asked what his weight is.)
"Rick Barry’s resume is not good enough to even come into my office to be qualified for a job. I will shoot negative-30 percent before I shoot underhanded."
"My game’s like the Pythagorean Theorem. It ain’t got no answer."
During the 1999-2000 season, the big guy put together the best scoring performance of his career against the little brother Los Angeles Clippers.
It was technically on the Clippers' home court, even though the Staples Center crowd was cheering their heads off for Shaq throughout the entire game. Oh, and it was his 28th birthday.
With the likes of Michael Olowokandi, Maurice Taylor and Pete Chilcutt checking him for the duration of the game, Shaq had no problem forcing himself into the paint and getting his way to the rim at will.
Shots fell left and right, eventually totaling 24-of-35 in all, giving him a career-high 61 points and a stellar 23 rebounds in 45 minutes of play.
This game came during a stretch in which the Lakers won 31 of 32 games, and Shaq averaged 32 points and 13 rebounds in that time. It was quite possibly the most dominant regular-season stretch of his career, and it was all just a preface for what was to come in the playoffs.
Only two players have won NBA Finals MVP awards in three consecutive seasons: Shaq and Michael Jordan (Jordan won three straight twice).
As the Lakers toyed with the Nets during what was the low point of the Eastern Conference, Shaq coasted to a 36-point, 12-rebound average over the course of the four games.
After dispatching the Nets on the road, Shaq was awarded his third Finals MVP award, giving him bragging rights over his teammate and soon-to-be rival: Kobe Bryant.
There became an argument over "whose team" the 2001 and 2002 Lakers squads were (there was no question about 2000). Ultimately, O'Neal was the one hoisting the Finals MVP trophy at the end of the season.
It is, without a doubt, the most famous alley-oop in the history of the Shaq-Kobe era.
With the Lakers facing a 75-60 deficit with just over 10 minutes to go in the fourth quarter of Game 7 in the 2000 Western Conference Finals, Shaq and Kobe took over.
The big dude ended up scoring nine points in the fourth quarter, including this huge, game-clinching alley-oop from Kobe.
It was one of the games where Shaq's theory that he made free throws when they counted actually rang true. He made eight of his 12 freebies, tying the game with two big ones at 77 apiece with less than three minutes to play.
While some question the dubious officiating (37 free throws for L.A., 16 for Portland), this play broke open the floodgates for the Lakers' three consecutive championships.
Following the 2000 Western Conference Finals, Shaq and the Lakers faced their toughest test of any of their three NBA Finals, but they also had Shaq at his absolute peak.
Shaq put together averages of 38 points 16.7 rebounds, a steal and three blocks per game for the six-game series against Reggie Miller's Indiana Pacers. Rik Smits and Dale Davis couldn't hold a candle to what Shaq was doing in the paint.
O'Neal opened the series with a 43-point night in front of the hometown fans, and the Lakers won by 17 points. His next game was a 40-point, 24-rebound monster of a game.
ESPN's John Hollinger called it the eighth-best NBA Finals performance of all time, but what he really had was one of the best single seasons of basketball in the history of the sport.
Shaq earned the NBA MVP, All-Star Game MVP, NBA Finals MVP and first-team All-NBA, averaging 29.7 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and three blocks per game.
Only Shaq and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have ever averaged at least 29 points, 13 rebounds, 3.5 assists and three blocks, but Shaq did it all while shooting a solid six percent better from the floor.