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Shaq’s Magic jersey moment in Orlando

The notorious big M.D.E. became just the third player in NBA history to have his jersey retired by three separate teams.

Nba: oklahoma city thunder at orlando magic
Nba: oklahoma city thunder at orlando magic

“Me?!”

With a Magic (Johnson) like smile, a young, 20-year-old Shaquille O’Neal couldn’t believe his luck when he was drafted first overall in the first round of the 1992 draft by the Orlando Magic.

The LSU giant, who held the ball like it was caught in a tiger’s paw, was set to be a star. The biggest, in more ways than one, and most bona fide since MJ (Jordan). He’d even crossover, like the other MJ (Jackson), into music and movies.

Before the rings and MVPs in other sunny climates like LA and Miami, the MDE (Most Dominant Ever) was one of the youngest, freshest stars in the league like his high-top fade when the late David Stern called his name for the commission of the NBA.

Some say Shaq’s magic hour truly was in Orlando. Others were just distracted by the Yankee like pinstripes of the classic Magic threads. Before Shaquille went for the record-breaking big bucks in Florida, he was with Penny Hardaway for the first of many an inside/outside, one-two punch of a dynamic duo.

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Kobe, Dwyane and LeBron came after.

Shaquille O’Neal and Anfernee Hardaway could have won it all if it wasn’t for Shaq giving Michael Jordan a playful pat after dominating the greatest. Not to take it personally, but that’s when number 23 had number 32. He saw it as a weakness and bust.

The Big Aristotle would never be the same. The mind games would end as he ruthlessly dominated everybody on court with a physical power like no other. The music and movies would hit the cutting room floor as Shaq would go on to win the biggest basketball awards. It was over.

Last week with the TNT crew, Shaquille O’Neal gave a moving testimonial to his former teammate and one half of the best basketball partnership of all-time, Kobe Bryant. Like his narrated video, it was the perfect tribute to his late friend before the statue unveiling of number 8.

A week later, last night, number 32 had his own honouring in the city where his career began.

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The Orlando Magic finally retired their most iconic legend’s number 32 jersey with old friends and stars, and new ones too, (Paolo Banchero) looking on.

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Now Shaquille O’Neal joins the elite company of ‘Pistol’ Pete Mavarich and arguably the only big-man as dominant as him, Wilt Chamberlain, as the only three players in NBA history to have their jersey retired by three-separate teams.

Let’s also not forget, the great Bill Russell’s number 6 is retired across the whole National Basketball Association.

O’Neal’s 32 is also retired by fellow Florida franchise, the Miami Heat. Whilst his number 34 resides in the Lakers rafters next to Wilt and a couple of Kobes.

Not to mention all those banners.

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Shaq also played for Cleveland, Phoenix and Boston. Although he contributed significantly at each stop, it’s doubtful these teams will make those jerseys exclusive to him.

That’s no matter. ‘The Big Legendary’ certainly was that to three big-teams. Suited up for this occasion in a blazer made from the same pinstripe jersey he and Penny made, a Mitchell and Ness hardwood classic.

Sitting in a throne like a Kareem rocking-chair, his former teammates, led by Hardaway, paid tribute too. Nick Anderson and Dennis Scott showed up for the first jersey retirement in Magic history. Although, we feel like Penny will be the next one, or even a certain other big Superman of Magic lore.

Either way, at the half of an Orlando game against the Oklahoma Thunder, this was Shaq’s moment. And like his rap song with the Notorious B.I.G., you couldn’t stop the reign. Yet, the Diesel, with more self-dubbed nicknames than the Black Mamba, kept it humble like we all should remember to do.

“Never forget where you come from.”

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And if you don’t know, now you know.

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