Shaquille O'Neal says Jerry Buss called about number retirement
Shaquille O'Neal once yelled out in the middle of a pre-season game for Lakers owner Jerry Buss to "pay me." Skeptical of O'Neal's injury history and his $30-million-a-year asking price, Buss traded him in 2004. The immediate aftermath entailed Shaq taking swipes at Buss' playboy lifestyle.
That's all water under the bridge at this point. Once O'Neal announced his retirement June 1 after a storied yet underachieving 19-year career, Buss released a statement thanking Shaq for his contributions to the Lakers' three-peat (2000-2002). The Lakers also announced they would retire his No. 34 jersey at an undetermined time. And as O'Neal told radio/TV personality Dan Patrick on Tuesday morning, Buss has called Shaq directly about his number retirement.
The same couldn't be said about former Lakers Coach Phil Jackson. Though Shaq told Patrick that Jackson was the best coach he ever played for, Jackson apparently didn't answer Shaq's phone call when he was in Los Angeles earlier this year.
Nonetheless, it appears old age, retirement and some revisionist history has allowed Shaq to view his Lakers run through rose-colored glasses. He's argued that the well-documented feud with Kobe Bryant was strictly a motivational ploy. Shaq's compliment toward Jackson contradicts his claim in 2006 when he boasted that Pat Riley was his best coach. And of course, Buss and O'Neal are now on speaking terms.
But that's a good thing. Even if Shaq's fighting with Bryant, Jackson and Buss partly led to the Lakers prematurely breaking up a potential dynasty, they should at least look back with fondness on what O'Neal accomplished here. It's certainly warranted enough to earn a spot on the Staples Center rafters.
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Photo: Lakers owner Jerry Buss. Credit: Los Angeles Times