His jersey is being retired, of course, because O'Neal was about more than fun. Bryant may own Staples Center, but O'Neal built it by leading the team to three consecutive titles while being the Finals most valuable player in each of them.
"I just wanted to pour my heart out, win championships, and give everyone a show," he said earlier Tuesday. "You got your money's worth watching us, watching me, and that's all that ever mattered to me."
His wide-eyed, open-mouthed, finger-raised strut after an alley-oop dunk from Kobe Bryant to clinch a Game 7 comeback
against Portland in the 2000
playoffs marked the beginning of the era. Who could ever forget his joy?
His screaming, "Now you gonna pay me!" to owner Dr. Jerry Buss in Hawaii during a preseason game in fall 2003 signified the end of the era. Who could ever forget his impetuousness?
Sadly, in the summer of 2004, he had to leave. The Lakers could have won a couple of more championships if he had stayed, but for him to stay, he had to co-exist with Bryant, and that became impossible.
Kobe thought Shaq didn't work enough. Shaq thought Kobe didn't smile enough
Kobe hated it that Shaq could slouch through half the season and wind up being the NBA Finals MVP. Shaq wondered why Kobe even cared how he won, as long as he won.
Kobe hated that Shaq seemingly cared about things other than the team. Shaq hated that Kobe seemingly cared only about himself.
It would be have been nice for the two men to use Tuesday's ceremony to finally, truly, publicly heal the rift.
Yet while jersey is retired, the wounds, apparently, sadly, are not.