The possibility that Shaquille O'neal's Jersey could be retired in Los Angeles stirs mixed emotions among Laker fans and the city of Los Angeles.
One Laker fan I spoke too recently described it as: "If a friend and you are in a band and his guitar playing helps get the band a record deal; the band goes on to sell millions of albums and make millions of dollars! Does that make it alright for him to sleep with your girlfriend? That's what I feel Shaq did to the Lakers and the city of Los Angeles. He gave us something to be proud of and then treated us like we were below him!"
Shaq is known to most basketball fans as the main ingredient in the Los Angeles Lakers' three-peat run to start the new millennium. Laker fans have a much more cynical and bittersweet outlook on Shaq, his title run, and leaving the Lakers!
While most of the people I spoke with will agree that Shaq was the main reason for the championships, most have stated they do not wish to see the big man's jersey retired in Los Angeles! Does this mean we could see a first ballot Hall of Fame candidate not have his jersey retired by the team his name has become most synonymous with?
Most Laker fans I have spoken with have cited Shaquille's big mouth, huge ego, sarcastic attitude, and complete disregard for the Lakers Organization as the primary reason for why his jersey should not be retired in L.A.
I will admit I was stunned when one fan told me, "Because all the retired jerseys belong to players who played most, if not all, their basketball career with the Lakers!"
Four of the hanging jerseys at the Staples Center are players who started and ended their careers with the Lakers! Outside of Goodrich, all retired players finished their careers with the Lakers.
So the question is: do the three titles and four Finals appearances overwhelm the attitude and discontent Shaq has displayed toward the the city of Los Angeles, his former teammates, and the Laker Organization? Does his Jersey deserve to fly in Staples Center even though he has played for four other teams?
The few Heat fans I talked to are not happy with the prospect of his name hanging in their arena either! This is a team who retired a No. 23 Michael Jordan jersey even though Jordan never played for the Heat. Would they sooner retire Jordan's than Shaq's?
The question remains, will the Laker organization let go of hard feelings and let his jersey fly? Or will they see it as nothing more than a way for Shaq to stroke his already huge ego even more in the future? Only time and decisions by the Lakers Management will decide Shaq's fate.
Los Angeles will never forget what Shaq did for them. The Lakers will also never forget what Shaq did to them!