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Shaquille O’Neal is a lock for the NBA Hall of Fame and will go down as one of the greatest centers in history, period. Last night, the NBA Lakers retired the big guy’s No. 34 jersey.

The NBA reports:

Shaq joined Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, George Mikan and the rest of the Lakers’ greats Tuesday night when the club retired his No. 34 jersey in a halftime ceremony.

“I just wish Dr. Buss was here to see this, to enjoy this joyous occasion,” O’Neal said of Lakers owner Jerry Buss, who died in February. “I always hoped and prayed it would come. It was a dream come true.”

Although O’Neal rarely finds himself speechless, he’s thrilled to receive the honor he first imagined back in 1996 when he chose the Lakers.

“It gets me real emotional,” O’Neal said before the game. “Growing up in Newark, New Jersey, and my father teaching me about the game, always mentioning Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and telling me when I was a young medium juvenile delinquent that, `If you do things right, son, maybe one day you can be as great as those guys.”‘

Shaq even had some sort of kind words for his old buddy Kobe Bryant, who he won three NBA championships with during his run as a Laker.

“We’ve talked a lot since our playing days,” O’Neal said. “There’s two different kinds of dislike. There’s an athletic dislike, and there’s a real dislike. We never had a real dislike. We had a million good times and a thousand bad times. … If I had it all over to do again, would I do it different? Probably not.”

Check out video of the ceremony below, and an interview with NBA TV on the next page. Congratulations Shaq.

Photo: NBA/TNT

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