Men's Basketball
Shaquille O'Neal in front of his teammates and the new bronze statue
Photo by:Steve Franz, LSU Athletics Staff Photographer
LSU Presents Shaq with Bronze Statue
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Published: September 08, 2011, 08:48 PM (CT)
Updated: September 09, 2011, 05:54 PM (CT)
by LSUsports.net (@LSUsports), LSU Sports Interactive

BATON ROUGE - Assisted by his mom, Lucille O'Neal, present LSU Coach Trent Johnson, and, his former college coach at LSU, Dale Brown, Shaquille O'Neal pulled the necessarily large white cloth that covered the 900-pound bronze statue that unveiled a young LSU player named O'Neal dunking the basketball.

The statue was unveiled Thursday afternoon before a crowd of several hundred LSU fans, family, friends and current and former LSU players that gathered outside the new LSU practice facility which is located on the north end of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

O'Neal saluted the fans and invited all the former and the members of the 2011-12 LSU basketball team to surround him as he made his brief remarks after the unveiling, later admitting in a post-event media conference that he never imagined the statue would be that big.

O'Neal played at LSU from 1989-92 and in his three seasons was named National Player of the Year in 1992 and runnerup for Player of the Year in 1992. He also earned NBA MVP honors, making him the only student-athlete in LSU history to win National Player of the Year in college and then a professional MVP honor.

O'Neal played 19 NBA seasons before announcing his retirement in June of this season. He has joined TNT Sports as a studio analyst when the NBA resumes play.

Here are some of the comments Shaquille O'Neal made to the media after the unveiling ceremony:

WINNING ALL THE AWARDS, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU...
"I don't think there is anything comparable because Coach Johnson set me up. They sent me little sculptures of what it would look like so I thought it was one of those little things. When that curtain came down it was like wow. They really did a good job. I'm honored and humbled. There are a lot of great players that came through this university - greater than me.  Pistol Pete. Bob Pettit. Stanley Roberts, guys like that. So I'm just honored that they chose me to build a statue of. I had no idea it was that big because Coach Johnson sent me the email pictures and I thought it was going to be some little thing. I think it's beautiful. It's fabulous."

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO YOUNG PEOPLE WHO ARE TRYING TO MAKE IT THROUGH SCHOOL AND LOOKING TO ADVANCE...
"Follow your dreams. We all have the same goals and aspirations. We all get here some type of way whether its scholarship or our parents pay for college. The great thing about Baton Rouge is that the people here are so friendly. The campus is so lively and the night life is so great.  Everyone is just together. Baton Rouge is one of the best cities in the world. Like me mom said earlier, I had people who were like my extended family ... Besides my parents who raised me well, it is the people of Louisiana who really made me."

GREAT AMBASSADOR FOR LSU...
"I just had so much fun here. A lot of people don't know this but when I had to call Coach Brown and tell him I didn't think I wanted to come back (after his junior season) that was one of the hardest days of my life because if I leave Coach Brown there will be no more Tiger Town, no more Sports on Thursday, no more football games, no more tailgating, no more crawfish. There would be no more fun. Now I've got to go to work.  I really got to take this accounting class I fooled around in and go to work. That was a very, very difficult phone call. That was a very difficult decision. I promised my mom I would come back and finish my degree and I did seven years later. I went to summer school each year and I always try to make one football game each year and I'll be there Saturday night."

DO YOU REMEMBER WHERE YOU WERE WHEN YOU FOUND OUT ABOUT THE STATUE...
"Trent Johnson, Coach Johnson, he's doing a fabulous job of bringing us all back together. That means everyone that has ever played here at LSU. A couple of years ago he did an anniversary (100th anniversary of the first game), I couldn't make it, but all the guys were here. They sent me emails, they sent me pictures. Me and Coach Johnson have become good friends and he told me he wanted to do it and I told him stop playing. He sent me emails and I realized he was really serious. I really didn't realize it was going to be that big. So I want to thank Coach Trent Johnson. I really appreciate you very much."

WHAT DID IT MEAN TO SEE ALL THE FORMER PLAYER UP THERE WITH YOU TODAY...
"It was great. I haven't seen those guys in a while. It brought back old memories. I would like to talk to Coach Brown and Coach Johnson and Mr. Mallet and maybe we could do something every year. Maybe a charity game or something ... I'm in. It brought back old memories of getting ready to go play a game, going through the tunnel...It was great seeing those guys."

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS PRACTICE FACILITY...
"I saw it last year and I'm actually jealous. I had to beg the security guards to let me in to the (old) downstairs practice facility which at the time they call the dungeon. Chris (Jackson) and Stan (Roberts) would be down there and I'd actually have to fistfight with them to get a goal. I'm quite jealous. I spoke to the team last year and I said listen you got everything you want here. I didn't have any of this and I made it. You've got computers and internet and practice facility and study hall. My message to them was take advantage of all this stuff. I've been a lot of places but LSU will always remain a top university. We always produce the top athletes."

FAVORITE MEMORY OF PLAYING BASKETBALL AT LSU ...
"My favorite memory is coming out of the tunnel and hearing those horns. Looking up and seeing the whole city behind us win or lose. The only thing I regret is not being able to give LSU a national championship because Baton Rouge has given me so much.

FUTURE PLANS NOW THAT YOU ARE RETIRED ...
"I'll always come back every first football game. A lot of people don't know this but hopefully I will graduate in December and become Dr. O'Neal.  I've been working on that the last four years. I didn't want to let a lot of people know until I actually became a doctor. I'm working on my dissertation now and hopefully I'll be Doctor O'Neal. Unfortunately, I will no longer answer to "Shaq."  You will have to call me Dr. O'Neal."

ON MEETING COACH DALE BROWN FOR THE FIRST TIME...
"The first time I met Coach Brown was in Germany. I was 13-years old and I was not very good. My mother and father would always stay on me and say son you will be the best to play it ever, just stick with it. I was very down on myself and my father came in and punched me in the chest and said there is this coach up at the gym. Maybe if we can get him to see you, we can get you a scholarship. So I go to the gym and I'm sitting in the back and Coach Brown is talking. I go to sneak around and introduce myself and say Coach Brown, I am 13 and I can't dunk. Can you get me something where I could strengthen my legs and dunk the ball? And he goes, how long have you been in the Army? And I was like Coach, I'm not in the Army, I'm 13. And he went crazy and asked for my father.

"One thing about Coach Brown is that he is always consistent. I chose to come to LSU because Coach Brown knew me when I was nobody and he was always consistent. Here I am on the All-American team and here come all of the other colleges, but I said I am going to go to LSU."

"Coach Brown and the staff decided to bring me to a football game and they announced my name. At the time, I didn't realize that people in Baton Rouge knew who I was and then the stadium went crazy. I was like man I like this and that was why I decided to come to LSU."

ON THE STATUE...
"I don't think anything will compare to this day. I am very humbled and honored. I am going to say this a million times, but there could have been a lot of other guys that LSU could have made a statue of. I am just blessed and honored that they chose me. They almost caught me off guard with how big the statue was. This right here will probably be in the top two moments of my life. I have won a lot of championships and awards but I don't think it compares to this day."

 

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