On March 27, the Orlando Magic inducted their former star, retired NBA center Shaquille O’Neal into the team’s Hall of Fame.
O’Neal, who played his first four NBA seasons there, said it was an “unexpected” celebration of his contributions to the franchise, AP reported.
“It’s unexpected because I came here to win. We won games and then I made a business decision,” said O’Neal, who becomes the third member of the Magic’s hall, joining co-founder Pat Williams and first-ever draft pick Nick Anderson.
The Magic selected O’Neal from LSU with the No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 draft, and O’Neal quickly took over as the team’s leader and started making a name for himself in the league, using his dominant presence.
O’Neal’s arrival helped the team win 20 more games in this rookie season, and in 1995 O’Neal helped the Magic to reach the NBA finals, where they lost to a more experienced Houston Rockets. O’Neal left the team shortly after, looking for a better place to win an NBA title.
O’Neal played 295 games for the Magic, averaging 27.2 ppg, 12.5 ppg and 2.8 bpg in 37.8 mpg, playing for Orlando 4 seasons.
O’Neal said it wasn’t personal, regarding him leaving the team, but all business. Just about all of O’Neal’s greatest career achievements came after he had already left Orlando — the four championships, three Finals MVP trophies and one league MVP in the 2000 season.
“It’s never personal. The (team owner Rich) DeVos family knows that. And I accomplished (a championship) somewhere else. It’s not like I didn’t think they weren’t going to be upset or anything. But it’s business. It was all business,” he said.
Former center admitted that he does regret leaving the Magic, and explained why.
“Do I regret it? I never fully answer it. I regret it sometimes. Is this where I started and should have stayed? I actually wish they made it a law that whoever drafts you, you gotta stay there your whole career,” he said.
O’Neal said the DeVos family deserves “a couple” of championships and that the Magic’s 1995 Finals team, which also featured a core of Penny Hardaway and Nick Anderson, had a chance to get back.
“That’s why I kind of regret it, because we had a young, fabulous team,” O’Neal said. “We really did. And it’s a shame that we got torn apart. But I think about that all the time. I try not to live my life now on ‘ifs’ or ‘would’ve, should’ve,’ but do I regret leaving here in ’96, yes I do.”
O’Neal said he would’ve handled the same situation differently today.
“I wish I would have had more patience,” he said. “I wanted to be protected from the bashing. What I mean by that is I wanted to win then. Even when I got (to Los Angeles) I still got bashed, it took four years to win. But I was very impatient. I was very young and I thought that if I go there, with those guys out there I could win right away and that wasn’t the case. “Now that I’m older now, I wish as a youngster I would have had more patience.”
O’Neal played in 1207 NBA games (1197 started), averaging 23.7 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 2.3 bpg in 34.7 minutes of action.
He was a 15-time NBA All-Star, and won 4 NBA championships (three with Los Angeles Lakers, one with Miami Heat). He is considered to be among the best centers ever to play in the NBA.Follow @exnbadotcom
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