Photo by Daniel Byun
LOS ANGELES – L.A. Live was transformed into “Shaqtown”, on Friday, March 24th as the Los Angeles Lakers unveiled a statue dedicated to Shaquille O’Neal. The 8th statue at Staples- this bronze statue isn’t an average statue sitting on a plinth. Suspended 10 feet in the air, tipping the scale at 1,200 lbs, it depicts the most domina nt big man of all time in action.
His size 22 shoes sticking out; hanging from the rim as he slams the basketball with authority, the backboard threatens to shatter into hundreds of glass shards. Thousands of fans stood anxiously waiting behind the barriers for their hero the “Diesel” to emerge. The atmosphere was electric.
The menacing looking statue is in stark contrast to the man, who is kind hearted, generous with his time and money and has an infectious sense of humor. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss declared him, “Sheriff of Shaqtown”, which featured a Ferris wheel, a mini-sized Lakers B-ball court and carnival games for families. In addition, the three Larry O’Brien NBA Titles the Lakers won in Shaq’s tenure were on display, glistening in the sun for all to behold…
The Cavalcade of stars included former Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson, Laker legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, James Worthy, owner Jeanie Buss and one Kobe Bryant. Bryant and O’Neal are forever linked to one another, teammates for eight seasons, earning three consecutive NBA titles from 2000-2002.
O’Neal averaged 27 points, 11.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.5 blocks per game in 514 regular-season contests as a Laker, making seven All-Star appearances as a Laker, earned eight All-NBA berths (six on the First Team) and notched five top-five finishes in Most Valuable Player voting, winning the Podoloff trophy after the 1999-2000 season. He was also named Finals MVP after each of the Lakers’ titles.
The ceremony should have been called: The Roasting of Shaquille O’Neal. The event felt like it might have aired on Comedy Central, and surprisingly, Kareem got the biggest laugh of the afternoon when he said, “some people thought the odds of Kobe Bryant showing up today were the same as Shaq sinking a free throw”. BURN!
This dynamic duo, was just as famous for their on-court success as the drama behind the scenes, after the 2004 NBA Finals, which they lost to the Detroit Pistons, Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat. Any resentment is ancient history, as the former rivals sat next to each other during the festivities, it was an incredible subplot, and the most compelling moment of the celebration.
“Most dominant player I’ve ever seen,” Bryant said of O’Neal during the ceremony. He added that what was “most impressive” to him about O’Neal was that, while the hulking center was “such a fun, outgoing guy,” he would flip “the switch” just before games and no longer be “joking around,” said Bryant.
O’Neal called Bryant “brother” and emphasized their mutual respect, noting the classic Western Conference Finals clash in 2000 against the Portland Trailblazers.
“When I first got here in 1996, we always won 50, 55, 60 games, but we never got over the hump,” O’Neal said. “Then we got there, Game 7, and [Portland] got out to a big lead and we thought it was happening again. But we made that historical comeback, Kobe crosses Scottie Pippen and throws the lob, and I sealed it,” said O’Neal.
As the final curtain closed on Shaquille O’Neal’s illustrious career, the crowd roared one final time for the Big Aristotle. The confetti fell upon Star Plaza, the enormous bronze masterpiece finally unveiled the Big Statue for the public, as Shaq yelled into the microphone his famous rhetorical question: “CAN YOU DIG IT”?
UCLA Falls To Kentucky, Ball To Enter NBA Draft
UCLA, the nation’s most explosive offense in NCAA basketball all season, was smothered by Kentucky’s overwhelming defense, as their season came crashing to an end on Friday night, as Kentucky ran away in the second half, for a decisive win, 85-76.
The first half was an exhilarating ball- the Bruins and Wildcats raced down the court matching each other shot for shot. Twelve lead changes in the first half alone, it appeared we had a classic on our hands.
The second half belonged to Wildcat freshman, De’Aaron Fox, who scorched the Bruins for 39 points. Needless to say, the stage was not too big for these young men, as six freshmen who played in the game were McDonald’s All-Americans a year ago.
Lonzo Ball, who was upstaged by Fox, had a challenging night. Scoring 10 points, jacking up three after three a good seven feet behind the 3pt. line. Although he did add 9 assists, it was a disappointing end to his brief, yet illustrious career as a Bruin. Post game, Ball announced his intentions to enter the 2017 NBA Draft in the locker room.
Give credit where credit is due, Kentucky dominated down the stretch. but in the second half, Kentucky began to pull away after capitalizing on Bruin turnovers which seen the Wildcats go on a 14-2 run to put the game away. The ball is projected to be the NO. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft, and the Chino Hills native, and his polarizing father, La’Var Ball have made it clear, he wants to be a Laker.
Bruins Head Coach Steve Alford will stay with the program, it was speculated he would return home to fill the vacancy at Indiana. Le’Angelo Ball, Lonzo’s little brother will be a part of the second-ranked recruiting class in the nation.
Raiders Are Headed To Las Vegas
PHOENIX- 31 of 32 NFL owners voted in favor of the Oakland Raiders relocating to Las Vegas Nevada on Monday, March 27th. The Silver and Black will play in Oakland through the 2019 season before moving into a reported $1.9 billion dollar dome, expected to seat an estimated 65,000 fans.
The faithful Raider fans all across the Southland are ecstatic about the move, its a shorter drive and an awesome excuse to go to Vegas. The Raiders are the third NFL franchise in a little over a year to leave. First, it was the Rams who left St. Louis for Los Angeles, next, the Chargers move to L.A. as well. Now Oakland is losing their beloved Silver and Black. The Raiders spent 45 of their 58 years in Oakland. Bank of America will pay for the stadium. Viva Las Raiders!
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell expressed regret at not finding a solution that kept the team in Oakland.
“We needed to provided certainty and stability for the Raiders, as well as the league,” Goodell told reporters at a news conference.