It feels like the Lakers have Friday's two acts switched around, with tonight's anticlimatic game against the Wolves following the emotional unveiling late this afternoon of a Shaquille O'Neal statue outside Staples Center.

It's the fifth such one commemorating a Laker -- if you count legendary play-by-play guy Chick Hearn -- and the 1,500-pound hanging statue depicting Shaq hanging two-fisted from the rim goes out on the plaza alongside statues of hockey's Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille as well as boxer Oscar De La Hoya.

I'll have to admit, it made me feel old.

I remember watching O'Neal announce on a San Antonio military base in 1992 that he was turning pro and today watched the Laker family honor him seven years after he played his last game.

Why such a site?: His father was a military man.

I was covering the Wolves my first time around on their beat and the team was playing in Dallas while the 1992 Final Four was being held at the Metrodome. The Wolves were headed toward the NBA's worst record that season, and thus O'Neal's decision to leave LSU was big news back home.

I remember flying to San Antonio for the afternoon announcement and flying back to Dallas for that night's Wolves-Mavs game.

What I remember more is how O'Neal wrinkled up like face, like he smelled some bad cheese, when I asked him what he thought about the prospect of playing in Minnesota.

Of course, Orlando won the lottery that year, Charlotte finished second and the Wolves third.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Or infamy...

The Magic ended up with O'Neal, for four seasons anyway, before he bolted as a free agent for L.A.'s big stage and bright lights. Charlotte took Georgetown's Alonzo Mourning and the Wolves drafted Duke's Christian Laettner.

Mourning, by the way, was among the many dignitaries who attended this afternoon's ceremony. Kobe Bryant, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jerry West all spoke from the stage and Magic Johnson appeared by recorded video message because as the Lakers' new basketball boss he is out scouring tonight's UCLA-Kentucky game in Memphis.

Among former teammates, coaches and others who attended: Former Wolves forward Mark Madsen, former Wolves shooting coach Mike Penberthy, Augsburg's own Devean George, Derek Fisher, Rick Fox, Robert Horry, A.C. Green, Gary Payton, Lakers coach Luke Walton, Elgin Baylor, Elden Campbell, James Worthy and O'Neal's coach at LSU, Dale Brown.

It's probably no coincidence tonight's media-room meal is barbecue chicken, O'Neal's favorite phrase for an opponent about to be exploited.

Older Post

Omri Casspi set to make Wolves debut tonight vs. San Antonio

Newer Post

Streaking Wolves play a Pacers team that can't get one going either way