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Shaquille O'Neal becomes third NBA star to have jersey retired by three teams as Magic raise No. 32 to rafters



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Shaquille O’Neal may be best known for his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, but his legendary NBA career began with the Orlando Magic. The No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft spent his first four seasons in Florida, and even if his time there was brief, it was certainly memorable. O’Neal made the All-Star Game in all four of his Magic seasons, he broke multiple backboards, and of course, he took Orlando to the 1995 NBA Finals.

His time with the Magic didn’t end well. A controversial Orlando Sentinel newspaper poll showed that fans were split on whether or not to pay him as a 1996 free agent. He ultimately went to the Lakers and won three of his four championships in purple and gold. He would later add a fourth title as a member of the Miami Heat, and both of the two teams he brought rings to would later reward him by retiring his No. 32 jersey. For more than a decade, he waited for his first team to do the same. 

On Tuesday, they finally did. After a loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Orlando Magic retired their first number in franchise history. Now No. 32 will never again be worn by a member or the Orlando Magic.

To show how unlikely this event was even recently, it’s worth noting that three players have worn No. 32 in Orlando since O’Neal left. Jeremy Richardson, Justin Harper, and most recently, C.J Watson during the 2016-17 season, all wore O’Neal’s number as members of the Magic. But time heals all wounds. And now, O’Neal is just grateful to have the beginning of his legendary career recognized.

“You know, there’s an old saying: never forget where you come from,” O’Neal said. “And my professional career started here. I’ve been living here mostly all my life. The fans have been hospitable. The people have been very, very hospitable. I never thought this day would happen.”

O’Neal is now the third player in NBA history to have his number retired by three teams, not including Bill Russell, whose No. 6 is retired league-wide. The first player to be so honored was Wilt Chamberlain, whose number 13 is retired by the Lakers, Warriors and 76ers. The second player to have three jerseys retired is Pete Maravich, whose number 44 was retired by his first team, the Atlanta Hawks, and whose No. 7 was retired by his second team, the Utah Jazz. Technically, though, the Jazz were still in New Orleans for most of Maravich’s tenure, so his No. 7 is also retired by the Pelicans.

Now O’Neal joins that decorated group, and it’s a fitting honor for an NBA legend that succeeded no matter where he played. O’Neal won championships for two teams and was named an All-Star for four. Now, he will forever be enshrined as a legend for three.





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