NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal reacts to Magic jersey retirement: 'I never thought this day would happen'


Shaquille O’Neal achieved numerous accomplishments during his storied NBA career. 

In 1992, the Orlando Magic made O’Neal the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft.

He spent four seasons in Orlando, where he was named to his first All-Star team. O’Neal ended his NBA career with 15 All-Star selections. He was also named to an All-NBA team for the first time during his run with the Magic. 

On Tuesday, O’Neal further cemented his name in the Magic’s history books when his No. 32 jersey was lifted to the rafters. O’Neal is the first player in franchise history to have a jersey number retired.

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Shaqs jersey is retired

Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey is raised during his jersey retirement ceremony after a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder Feb. 13, 2024, at the Kia Center in Orlando, Fla. (Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

O’Neal left Orlando after the 1995-96 season and had great success with other franchises. But O’Neal was surprised when he learned the Magic decided to retire his jersey.

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“You know, there’s an old saying: Never forget where you come from,” O’Neal said Tuesday during the a ceremony after Orlando’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“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.”

The Magic decided to honor O’Neal as the franchise celebrates its 35th season. 

Several of O’Neal’s former Magic teammates were on hand for the jersey retirement ceremony, including Penny Hardaway, Dennis Scott and Nick Anderson.

“There’s no one more deserving to be the first than Shaq,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “Shaq put the Orlando Magic on the map. And the foundation of his Hall of Fame career started right here in Orlando.”

Shaq jersey ceremony

Shaquille O’Neal during a postgame ceremony where the Orlando Magic retired his No. 32 jersey at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 13, 2024. (Mike Watters/USA Today Sports)

O’Neal now has a jersey hanging in the rafters of three NBA arenas. His No. 34 jersey was retired by the Los Angeles Lakers, while the Miami Heat retired his No. 32 jersey.

O’Neal became the third player to have his jersey retired by three different teams. He joins Pete Maravich and Wilt Chamberlain on the exclusive list. Eleven former NBA players have jerseys retired by two franchises.

“It means that every franchise you played for, they enjoyed you,” O’Neal said. “The fans enjoyed you. The people enjoyed you. They appreciated your hard work.”

Shaq speaks to the crowd

Shaquille O’Neal speaks to the crowd during his jersey retirement ceremony after a game between the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder Feb. 13, 2024, at the Kia Center in Orlando, Fla. (Getty Images )

O’Neal spoke with reverence about his time in Orlando. Having gone through four jersey retirements — LSU also gave him the honor — O’Neal made no secret of what this one meant.

“Truthfully speaking, this will probably be the most impressive one,” O’Neal said.

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O’Neal played in 295 regular-season games with the Magic. He remains sixth on the team’s all-time scoring list. Four of the five players ahead of him played at least twice as many games for Orlando. He’s also third all time in rebounds for the Magic.

“This is where it all started,” O’Neal said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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