“Without No. 99, there is no me,” said Shaq referring to George Mikan, a Hall of Fame center who helped lay the framework for what the NBA is today. Following Mr. Basketball’s death in ’05, O’Neal decided to pay last respects to the family of an NBA legend by handling funeral expenses for the league’s first dominant big man.
“I’d like to send my condolences to the Mikan family. I heard they were having some trouble, some problems, so if you contact the Heat office, I would like to pay for the funeral.”Shaquille O’Neal, ESPN
It was in the middle of the ECF series against the Pistons that Diesel herd the news about the passing of 80-year-old Mikan, following a long fight with diabetes and kidney ailments. Both Shaq and Mikan were selected to the NBA’s list of 50 greatest players, and they were both one of the most dominant forces of their respective eras. The mutual respect was always shared between the two.
“He was a great man. We had many, many conversations. Very nice to me. I know what he was and I know what he did.”Shaquille O’Neal, ESPN
George’s son Terry Mikan was moved by Shaq’s offer. “It just speaks to what Shaquille is all about,” Mikan’s son said of the big guy. However, he decided it was up to his mother to choose whether to accept O’Neal’s gesture or not. That same day it was announced that the Mikan family had decided to agree on Diesel paying for George’s funeral, giving Shaq the utmost honor of paying respects to his predecessor.
Mikan led the Minneapolis Lakers to five titles in a six-year span, becoming one of the franchise’s biggest champions. In the ’00s, O’Neal followed his path, rising three banners of his own, adding to the greatness that is the Lakers organization.
Shaq was always the one to acknowledge the greatness of the late great George Mikan. This small gesture was just another way of Shaq showing appreciation for “the model for all big men that followed him” and the immeasurable impact he had on the game of basketball.