A Bronze Statue Of Shaquille Is Coming To Staples Center
February 18, 2016
Laker great thanks assistant coach Bill Bertka
By Mitch Chortkoff
Sometime next season the Lakers will add a statue of Shaquille O’Neal at Staples Center to those of their other former great players.
The group includes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and Jerry West.
The statue will portray O’Neal flying through the air for a dunk.
The 7-1, 325 pound O’Neal, who has starred for several NBA teams, says that if he’s selected to the Basketball Hall Of Fame he’s chosen to go in as a Laker.
O’Neal, now a key member of Direc TV’s staff of former star players, played on Laker championship teams with Kobe Bryant in 2000, 2001 and 2002. He won a fourth championship with the Miami Heat.
“Shaquiile is a giant not only in size but in stature and the things he accomplished as a Laker,” said Team President Jeanie Buss. “He will join the other great players we’ve honored.”
O’Neal gives major praise to longtime Laker assistant coach Bill Bertka, who has through the years expertly tutored Laker big men.
“We had a lot of time working on my moves and he taught me how to position myself on the court to take advantage of my skills,” said O’Neal.
“I thank the Lakers for adding a statue of me and I particularly want to thank Bill Bertka.”
Today Bertka remains a member of the Laker front office. In four decades with the organization he has been an assistant coach and valued scout.
Filling in three times for head coaches he won two of those games.
“Having a player remember an assistant coach as Shaq is doing is not an everyday event,” Bertka told me. “I will cherish his thoughts.”
I traveled with Laker teams for 22 years and frequently passed time with Bertka in hotel
swimming pools. Then we’d buy a snack and talk about basketball.
“We share a lot of memories and Hershey bars,” he recently told me.