Shaquille O'Neal's Laker Jersey Retirement Summed Up in One Word: Awkward
If Steve Carell's socially unaware character of Michael Scott from The Office could script an extremely awkward NBA jersey retirement ceremony, this would have been it.
As Shaq's number was immortalized in the Staples Center rafters, the three-ring circus that the Lakers cannot seem to escape was on full display.
Kobe's Omnipresent Frenemy Shadow
Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant hated each other as teammates wearing the purple and gold. There is no need to beat around the bush or pretend the animosity never existed simply because a jersey retirement is supposed to be a happy occasion.
So how do the Lakers kick off Shaq's big night?
By allowing his nemesis Kobe Bryant to preside over the proceedings with a prerecorded message broadcast over the jumbotron.
Kobe rambled about Shaq being an unstoppable physical specimen, but he never complimented the Diesel for his work ethic, dedication or focus, which was obviously at the root of the bitterness between the two. At best, Kobe gave him a couple of backhanded compliments and nothing more.
Shaq must have been seething inside as his big night was turned over to a former teammate he genuinely dislikes. O'Neal probably didn't want Kobe invited to his party, and now he was suddenly the emcee.
So Shaq Likes to Get Naked
The awkwardness continued as former coach Phil Jackson focused his remarks on Shaq's greatest legacy as a Laker:
Yes, nudity. Phil told two stories about Shaq's time with the Lakers, and both ended with O'Neal undressed. First, Shaq once came to practice wearing only sneakers. Second, Shaq mooned the Sacramento Kings in 2002.
Thanks for the titles, Shaq. Those were somewhat memorable.
But what we will never forget is the nudity.
We Want Phil!
The uncomfortable moments continued with Jeanie Buss, Lakers Executive Vice President and Phil Jackson's fiancee.
The Lakers nearly re-hired Jackson early in the 2012-13 season after firing former coach Mike Brown. But at the last moment, the team surprised everybody by hiring Mike D'Antoni instead, a move that angered Lakers fans everywhere.
So what did Lakers fans do when Phil Jackson's girlfriend took the mic?
They rained down a deafening chorus of "We want Phil! We want Phil!" chants, of course.
Instead of honoring Shaq, the ceremony had now devolved into a sideshow as Laker fans reminded Jeanie and crew they hired the wrong coach.
Uncomfortable, to say the least.
A Night to Remember
As Shaq's number was retired tonight, I was reminded of his dominance and championships.
I was also reminded that he hates Kobe, loves being naked and that the Lakers hired the wrong coach.
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