Here's a dose of bittersweet irony: Nineteen years after he left,
Finally, Shaq has a permanent home with the franchise at
O'Neal has been viewed by many for so long as a treasure and a traitor. He was the club's No. 1 pick in 1992 and led Orlando to an
Retired since 2011, O'Neal, 43, is scheduled to be here to receive a plaque and speak with the media. He also will be honored on the court, which still might produce some mixed reactions.
Take a look back at Shaq's memorable moments in Orlando:
Look out, Mickey Mouse
Orlando's reputation as a backwoods sports town changed forever on June 24, 1992. That was the day that the Magic — armed with the No. 1 lottery pick heading into their fourth season — selected O'Neal out of
On Nov. 6, 1992, 20-year-old Shaq made his regular-season debut as a rookie against a team he would lead to a title one day: the Miami Heat, the Magic's bitter in-state rival. He scored 12 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and had eight turnovers during Orlando's 110-100 win. "I played all right," he said. Shaq spent most of the day playing the Sonic the Hedgehog video game with his 4-year-old nephew. "I killed him," O'Neal joked.
Unsuspecting basketball goals were no match for the 7-foot-1, 325-pound O'Neal. He pulled down the entire stanchion hydraulics while facing the
Shaq toyed with the Detroit Pistons on Feb. 16, 1993, scoring 46 points and hauling in 21 rebounds in the Magic's 124-120 overtime loss. The Pistons used the popular "Hack-a-Shaq," putting the poor free-throw shooter on the line. O'Neal missed four free throws in the final minute of regulation. The problem would haunt him, but he usually made light of it. He played himself in Scary Movie 4, tossing bricks at a basket and once said, "If I was able to shoot 80 percent from the line, I'd probably be an arrogant person rather than a humble one. Everything happens for a reason."
Shaq had an oversized, child-like personality and grandiose plans off the court. After winning Rookie of the Year, he did national commercials and sang rap songs, working with Jay-Z and Biggie Smalls. He acted in the basketball-centric movie, "Blue Chips," with
Shortly after Shaq's birth, his father, Joe Toney, abandoned his mother, Lucile, then 18. His mom remarried, and Shaq always considered his strict stepdad, Philip Harrison, a military man, his real father. Nicknamed "The Sarge," Harrison was an ever-looming presence around the Magic. Toney said on the Riki Lake Show that he yearned to reunite with his son. Shaq, on a plane bound for Orlando, wrote these poignant rap lyrics about Harrison: " . . . as far as I'm concerned he's my father, 'cause biological didn't bother."
Shaq vs. Penny
During the 1994-95 season, Shaq, Penny and former Chicago Bull
'We've lost him'
After the Magic were swept by the Chicago Bulls in the 1995-96 conference finals, Shaq had a decision to make that would change his world — and the course of Orlando's franchise. In the summer of 1996, Magic owner Rich DeVos was reluctant to give Shaq an $100 million contract . . . until it was too late. O'Neal was also bothered by an Orlando Sentinel survey in which 91 percent of the people said he wasn't worth $115 million. The Lakers swooped in with a $121 million offer. With no ability to match — this was before restricted free agency — Magic GM John Gabriel and CEO
Shaq and the Lakers didn't meet in Orlando until Feb. 22, 1998 — O'Neal's second season in Hollywood. As former Sentinel columnist Larry Guest wrote, jilted fans and the Magic's "burned-out shell of the woebegone franchise that had let him get away" had to wait "nearly two years to tweak the haughty nose of defector Shaquille O'Neal." Patrons booed him mercilessly and held up unflattering signs. One called him "Pond Scum," playing off Shaq calling the city "a dried-up pond" (which he later regretted saying, given he still has a home here). A short-handed Magic team upset Shaq and the Lakers 96-94. Anderson — the '95 Finals free-throw goat and later a target of Shaq's ridicule — hit the game-winning 3-pointer. He strutted the floor, mimicking O'Neal's neck-bobbing "chicken dance." Said Shaq, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds despite foul trouble: "That's entertainment. It was a fun game. I just wish we could have won. But I've been booed before. That didn't have anything to do with my play. It's not like I'm going to jump into a lake filled with alligators now because I'm upset about what happened."