Shaquille O’Neal was the No. 1 overall pick of the Orlando Magic in 1992 and, along with Penny Hardaway, helped take the team to new heights and an NBA Finals appearance early in his career.
O’Neal’s high-profile exit following the 1995-96 season and eventual agreement to join the Los Angeles Lakers may have left a bitter taste in the mouths of fans and Magic officials.
But all that appears to be water under the bridge.
O’Neal will be the first player in Magic history to have his uniform number retired. He wore No. 32 with Orlando. The ceremony will take place Feb. 13.
Bill Russell’s No. 6 is retired by all NBA teams, but the legendary center never played for Orlando.
“When someone asks who was the first player to officially put the Orlando Magic on the map, the answer is simple — Shaquille O’Neal,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said in a news release.
“He took this franchise to new heights, both on and off the court, and his legacy is still felt within our organization today. On behalf of the DeVos family, we are excited to honor Shaquille by raising No. 32 into the rafters of the Kia Center, where it will remain forever.”
O’Neal was the 1992-93 NBA Rookie of the Year and an All-Star in each of his four seasons there. He helped Orlando get past the dynastic Chicago Bulls even with the return of Michael Jordan.
He averaged 27.2 points and 12.5 rebounds per game with Orlando.
“It was a great four years there,” O’Neal said on TNT. “I just wanted to come in and just make a name for myself. … I’d like to thank the city of Orlando, like to thank the Orlando Magic organization. Appreciate you very much.”
He added that he was particularly grateful to the late Rich DeVos for bringing him to Orlando.
Since O’Neal left, three other Magic players have worn No. 32 — Jeremy Richardson (2008-09), Justin Harper (2011-12) and C.J. Watson (2015 to 2017).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.