LOS ANGELES — It’s a big day for former Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal.
Tonight at halftime against the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center, O’Neal will go down in Lakers’ lore as the ninth player in franchise history to have his jersey retired.
But before No. 34 goes to the rafters, the 7-footer made his way to Pauley Pavilion for UCLA coach Steve Alford’s introductory news conference on Tuesday afternoon.
As Alford was immersed in a media scrum, O’Neal walked over to offer his well wishes and give the new Bruins coach a big hug.
The two don’t have much of a relationship, but the gesture shows the type of human being O’Neal is, Alford says.
“That’s what speaks volumes of who he is as a person, because it’s not like we’re on each other’s speed dial or anything,” Alford said. “I got an awful lot of respect for him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player, and now the job he’s doing as an analyst is a lot of fun to watch.
“For him to make a point to stop by, it really means a lot to me.”