Shaq Gets Fancy New Retirement Ring from Kobe Bryant, Old Lakers Teammates
It's going to be tough for Shaquille O'Neal to top this week.
On Tuesday night, O'Neal stepped back inside the Staples Center, an arena that saw eight of the finest seasons of his NBA career.
At halftime, O'Neal watched as his No. 34 jersey was raised into the rafters, forever cementing him as one of the greatest players to suit up for one of the league's most storied franchises.
Two nights later, he returned to his new home (TNT's NBA set) with a flashy new addition to his jewelry collection:
It was massive. And boy, was it loud.
In other words, it couldn't have landed with a more appropriate owner.
Then again, O'Neal told his broadcast mates that the ring came courtesy of the teammates who had started building that collection of championships with him. From 2000 to 2002, the Los Angeles Lakers blasted their competition en route to a trio of NBA titles.
His unrehearsed jewelry showing went perhaps a tad smoother than a jersey retirement ceremony that one can only assume followed months of planning.
O'Neal's hanging jersey, that everlasting sign of appreciation, wasn't like the one he donned during his Lakers days.
The number was right, and so were the colors and the spelling of his name. But O'Neal's name and number were incorrectly printed on the front of the jersey (via Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com).
But that wasn't the only strange turn during the ceremony.
O'Neal's former coach, Phil Jackson, returned to the arena for the ceremony, and the Staples Center faithful promptly pleaded for him to stay.
Noticeably absent was his former running mate, Kobe Bryant. No two players contributed more to those three championship runs.
And no two players contributed more to its demise either. The two stars were too talented to share the stage, and O'Neal was sent to the Miami Heat over the summer of 2004.
But Bryant's absence had nothing to do with disrespect. Although the two often butted heads in their playing days, Bryant told Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports that their relationship is "really good now" and that they have "such a mutual respect for each other."
And it wasn't caused by the Mamba picking up some after-halftime work to pay for O'Neal's ring either. Let's just say Bryant wouldn't need any help from his teammates to purchase 100 rings.
It was simply the biggest game of the Lakers' season to date. Bryant couldn't afford to disrupt his routine any more than the lengthy tribute already had.
And there's probably no lingering hard feelings from O'Neal, either.
He certainly handled the center stage quite well on his own.
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