The Los Angeles Lakers retired Shaquille O'Neal's extra-extra-large No. 34 jersey in the midst of their playoff-altering game with the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night. As you can imagine, there were some interesting twists and turns along the way.
Los Angeles' game was going well for the first half, even if Dwight Howard may've been doing his best to pay homage to O'Neal throughout the game.
Dwight Howard is going to miss as many free throws as he can, in honor of Shaq's jersey retirement— Eric Pincus (@EricPincus) April 3, 2013
It all started out with Shaq's family rocking out onto the floor and a terrific and hilarious video tribute. That was followed with a recorded video speech from Kobe Bryant, congratulating his former teammate for his deserved honor.
The biggest takeaway from the first few minutes of it all was just that Shaq was wearing a damn shiny suit.
Phil Jackson came out next, and that's when things started to get awkward. The fans weren't exactly supportive of their current head coach.
Phil Jackson can't quiet the Lakers crowd and their chants of "We want Phil!" and "Bring back Phil!"— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) April 3, 2013
Eventually Jackson gave his speech—the main takeaway being that Shaq was a weird dude but Phil enjoyed being around him.
Phil Jackson: "Fun, fun, fun. Did we have fun?"— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) April 3, 2013
Phil Jackson: "Shaq didn't wear a lot of clothes."— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) April 3, 2013
After halftime, Craig Sager reported that the Lakers heard the "We want Phil" chants back in the locker room. The reaction was mostly a shoulder shrug and a realization that they've got a crucial basketball game to play.
Jeanie Buss came forward next, as they finally unveiled the jersey alongside all the other Laker legends.
Laker history is mind-boggling.— Marcel Mutoni (@marcel_mutoni) April 3, 2013
Shaq finally took the microphone, thanking everybody from Phil Jackson and Jim Buss to Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler. He did, however, leave somebody out, leaving Twitter ablaze.
Shaq doesn't thank Kobe in his speech......Interesting— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) April 3, 2013
In the end, Shaq's decision to exclude all of his former teammates seemed more an issue of expediency (although he did give a thanks to about a dozen celebrities), and he tweeted out a video thanking his teammates after the fact.
This is what I want everyone to kno thank u very muchEspecially you Kobeyoutu.be/CzUNO_CKWKE— SHAQ (@SHAQ) April 3, 2013
In the end, it was the perfect tribute to Wilt Chamberneezy. It was at times goofy, serious, completely unexpected, awkward and weird—sometimes all of the above.
Congratulations to the biggest, most lovable dude ever to shove Chris Dudley to the ground. I'm sure even Duds was smiling a bit Tuesday night.