Staples Center Rumors
He left the building at 12:26 a.m. on April 14. As the helicopter lifted off into the night sky and headed back toward his Orange County home, Bryant looked down at the arena. “I was proud of not just the game — just the 20 years,” he says today. “Flying over, I remember the day Shaq and I went and dug the shovels into the ground to build Staples Center, and now to fly over it and to see what downtown has become and to see how much we have grown, how much I have grown, how much Shaq has grown, how much the city has grown, how much my family has grown. So to fly over it one last time and to look down on it, I felt proud, man.”
Now that Shaq has a statue in front of STAPLES Center … it’s only a matter of time before Kobe Bryant gets his. But there’s one BIG question — what number will Mamba’s statue wear?! Kobe’s old teammate, Derek Fisher, has an easy solution … DOUBLE ‘EM UP! One statue for #8 and another for #24.
“The one where that crazy dummy Fred Hickman f—ed up my historical [unanimous MVP] so now Curry gets the first unanimous,” O’Neal said. “That bothers me a lot.” O’Neal, now a commentator at TNT, admitted to reporters Friday that he “definitely misses playing.” With his Hall of Fame induction complete, his No. 34 jersey hanging in the Staples Center rafters, and now his statue out front, O’Neal’s legendary status is secure. But the competitive spirit that drove him to punish Robinson and the Spurs, to prove to Abdul-Jabbar that he was a champion, and to butt heads with Bryant continues to seep through. Beneath the jokes and pranks, O’Neal still wants his due.
“I never thought I’d get a statue. There’s a lot of Lakers greats who deserve a statue,” O’Neal said. “So when they put my name in there, I thought it was awesome. I have great emotions. I want to thank the Buss family and the Lakers organization.” The statue “summed up perfectly the power that he played with,” as Fox said. With O’Neal collecting a regular-season MVP and three Finals MVPs since the Lakers acquired him as a free agent in 1996, Fisher observed “there’s really no debate on what type of things should happen” in the Lakers’ honoring O’Neal. When construction broke ground at Staples Center in 1998, Buss said O’Neal agreed to be part of the photo-op after AEG officials promised they would erect a statue for him following his NBA career.
O’Neal’s unveiling validated AEG’s clairvoyance on his accomplishments with the Lakers. But his statue also represents how he reconciled with the Lakers after he was traded to the Miami Heat following the 2004 NBA Finals loss to Detroit. “The Buss family has done a lot for me and we’ve had great times together,” O’Neal said. “We had a million great times and probably one bad time. The million great times are the times we always remember and the times that count.”
To celebrate the unveiling of a bronze statue of legendary Los Angeles Lakers and NBA Hall of Fame player Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal in Star Plaza at STAPLES Center, the Lakers and AEG will host Shaqtown, a street festival on March 24 to take place on Chick Hearn Court and Microsoft Square at L.A. LIVE. The festival will include a variety of interactive games including Fireball Alley, Block-A-Shaq and Plinko, a Hall of Fame Exhibit, specialty photo opportunities, a Ferris wheel, a mini Lakers basketball court and live deejay.