Magic players share their memories of Shaq

Shaquille O'Neal ranks fifth on the Orlando Magic's all-time scoring list.

Bob Donnan/Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

ORLANDO, Fla. — Channing Frye remembers getting backhanded a time or two early in his NBA career by Shaquille O’Neal.

He also remembers getting a backhanded compliment from the player the Orlando Magic will be honoring before their game Friday night against the Detroit Pistons.

"We were playing the Suns, and I was on the Trail Blazers," Frye said, referring to when O’Neal ended up in Phoenix after playing for the Magic, the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat. "And he said, ‘Hey, Frye, let me get your shoes after the game,’ and I was like, ‘What do you want my shoes for?’ He (said), ‘I don’t know why, but my son loves you. Maybe it’s because you’re the opposite of me.’ "

Frye is one of four current Magic players who were older than 6 when O’Neal played his last game for them in 1996. Even interim coach James Borrego was only 8 at the time O’Neal, who will become the third person inducted into the franchise’s Hall of Fame, chose to sign with the Lakers one year after helping the Magic reach the NBA Finals for the first time.

"I remember him as a Magic player," Frye said. "But back then, I’m not going to lie: I was watching more the Suns’ players (because) I was in Phoenix. Just the way he was running the floor, just the way he was gorilla dunking on everybody — I didn’t really understand how dominating he was until I actually played against him. And then you really saw. Whenever he wanted to, he was like, ‘OK, I’m going to take over this game.’ "

At 6-foot-11 and 255 pounds, Frye towers over most people. But the 7-1, 350-pound O’Neal isn’t most people. When asked to describe how it felt to be hit by a stray elbow from him, Frye said it was "like standing in front of a car probably going 30 miles an hour."

Forward Tobias Harris and guard Victor Oladipo, both of whom are 22, know of O’Neal more as someone who won four championship rings after leaving Orlando and now trades verbal jabs with Charles Barkley as a studio analyst for TNT.

"I grew up watching him and the Lakers," Harris said. "He had a great period here where it started all off. So I know it’s a great moment for him. As a team, we’re happy and excited."

Shaquille O'Neal honored by Magic

"It’s hard not to like him," Oladipo said. "You were so drawn to him by his personality and the way he laughs, the way he talks, everything he does. And even now when he’s on TNT, he’s hilarious … You can tell he’s a great person to be around."

O’Neal ranks fifth on the Magic’s all-time scoring list. Except for Tracy McGrady, all of the players ahead of him played at least twice as many years as he did in Orlando.

He’s also second to Dwight Howard in three other categories — rebounds, blocked shots and free throws attempted.

"He was a big guy," said Frye, who broke into the NBA in 2005 with the New York Knicks. "There’s only been one or two guys that size ever to play, and none as aggressive or as physical or as determined to get to that rim."

O’Neal, who turned 43 earlier this month, doesn’t star in as many movies as he used to but continues to appear in commercials for pain relievers, skin-care products and wireless communications companies.

"Actually, I like the Buick commercials," Harris said. "I want to know how he fits in those cars."

"Everybody’s watched Blue Chips. I don’t know if everybody’s watched Kazaam," Frye said with a laugh. "Hey, we make mistakes sometime. But his personality is bigger than basketball, and I think he’s going to be a success no matter what he does."

You can follow Ken Hornack on Twitter @HornackFSFla or email him at khornack32176@gmail.com.