Lowe: Congrats to Dr. Shaq!
Now that Dr. Shaq is heading to another Hall of Fame, I really hope the organizers don’t “lose” him this time.
To me, this confirmation Monday that Shaquille O’Neal will be inducted in September ceremonies into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts, is the ultimate validation of everything that O’Neal has done from high school, to the three years at LSU when he made himself one of the greatest to ever — and I do mean one of the greatest ever — to wear the Purple and Gold. Then there was his outstanding 19-year career in The Association when championship titles came three times with the Lakers and once with the Heat.
Add to that a couple of Southeastern Conference and national college POY honors, national block and rebound state awards, 13 All-NBA team selections, one rookie of the year honor, one regular-season MVP honor, three-time NBA Final MVP, 15-time NBA All-Star, 28,000-plus points, 13,000 rebounds and 1,207 games played. Now, he continues as well-known spokesman, NBA analyst and entrepreneur.
And, I hope you will indulge me the opportunity to call him “doctor” O’Neal. This is a man who honored his mother’s request and made sure and finished his degree work at LSU some years after he left to be the No. 1 pick in the 1992 NBA Draft.
That would lead to master’s and later his doctorate which is why when dealing with O’Neal you are dealing not only with a bona fide NBA star, but a true knowledgeable businessman.
Dr. O’Neal recalled many times spending “$1 million in about 30 minutes” after he got his first NBA check. He quickly realized he wasn’t as smart as he thought about money despite a few business and accounting classes. So it was time to finish his degree and take advanced work in the process.
Now back to losing Hall of Famers. O’Neal was being inducted in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches and everyone was awaiting his arrival on dedication night for the new home for the Hall downtown.
I was with our TV crew getting ready for the taping of the ribbon cutting broadcast when one of the Hall of Fame people came over to ask if I had heard anything from O’Neal because they had “lost contact” with him. Well, it turned out Shaq had stopped for a snack on the way to the Hall of Fame, at the local Popeye’s at the Natchitoches exit on I-20.
One of our state sports writers finally confirmed his missing location when he stopped after the ceremony at that same location and the people at the window, seeing him in suit and tie asked him if he was at the event. It was then that they told him Shaq had stopped in. Our writer, an investigative type, saw the autographs Shaq had signed and found out Shaq had two pieces of chicken and a biscuit.
Hopefully there isn’t a Popeye’s near the Hall in Springfield. But then again, if the Hall had trouble keeping an eye on O’Neal the night before Monday’s announcement all they had to do was check out what was happening in front of 100,000 fans in Dallas when O’Neal was the surprise entrant in the WrestleMania Battle Royal. A night when the showman in O’Neal could shine.
It was last year when Shaq and his coach Dale Brown were inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame. That was big. The number of retirements at LSU, Louisiana, Los Angeles and elsewhere are big. The statue in the basketball plaza in front of the Maravich Center practice facility is literally “big.” But this is the ultimate basketball salute to your career. To your legacy. To your life.
There was disappointment today for some who didn’t get the votes. For one, I’m not sure why it wasn’t their time. But for Shaq, his moment has been called. His entrance to the most important basketball Hall in existence. Springfield is the Cooperstown, it is the Canton of their respective sports.
What makes you understand even more how elite this place is that only two other men’s basketball players from LSU are in this Hall – and they have been there for a while – Bob Pettit and Pete Maravich. Two women’s head coaches who spent part of their coaching tenure at LSU – Sue Gunter and Van Chancellor – have had their moment in Springfield. Tex Winter, who had a short tenure as part of Brown’s staff, is also in for all his innovative work in the game.
So this is a moment to be celebrated. A moment to remember. It certainly gives me a chance to remember three very good years when I worked with him when he was player. Those three years are a special part of O’Neal’s legacy and any look at a career when Hall of Fame induction weekend comes will certainly include those years. Obviously, his professional career and his larger-than-life personality is what helped him earn this honor today.
But O’Neal’s love of Louisiana and his love of the people of this state and his three years in the LSU uniform set the tone for the legacy to come.
I’m honored like so many that O’Neal and I have remained friends who when we do see each other usually once or twice a year, I know the smiles, handshakes and hugs are genuine.
Dr. O’Neal has been a Hall of Fame member in my mind for years. Monday, it is now official. I have a feeling a few LSU fans just might consider a trip to Springfield in early September to add a little purple and gold to the festivities. I know Shaq feels he will be taking LSU and his NBA career into the Hall; not just his NBA career.
You have my heartfelt congratulations.