On July 8, 2010, the LSU Athletic Department formally, though quietly, proposed to the university that a “life-size” statue of Shaquille O’Neal be erected outside the school’s new basketball practice facility.
At the time, the practice facility was the latest construction project that O’Neal had donated significant funds to. Over the years O’Neal, who completed his LSU degree in 2000, has given multiple millions to the school for the construction of an academic center and on-campus hotel, all the while directing the school not to put his name on any of the new facilities. (He eventually allowed the school to dedicate the hotel pool as the “Shaquille O’Neal family pool” with a small sign.)
But with the construction of the new hoops practice facility, named after the late, great Pete Maravich, a LSU university source recently told me that representatives of LSU’s athletic interests - inside and outside of the university - hatched a plan some time ago to erect four statues outside the building.
The statues would be of Maravich, O’Neal, LSU great and basketball Hall of Famer Bob Petit and former LSU women’s basketball star Seimone Augustus.
While it would seem that Maravich would naturally be the first to gain such an honor, I’ve been told that at least two LSU Board of Supervisors members have demanded that an O’Neal statue go up first, because of his profound financial contributions to the school - which were accompanied by requests for anonymity.
Additionally, I’ve been told that the 78-year-old Petit, who lives in Baton Rouge and still attends LSU sporting events, has told LSU he does not want a statue of him to go up until he passes away.
In an effort to convince O’Neal to accept the honor, LSU has gone so far to already complete the statue, which features the future basketball hall of famer dunking a basketball while wearing his familiar LSU #33 jersey.
As of today, O’Neal has not budged on his unwillingness to have his bronzed, life-size likeness placed outside the LSU basketball practice facility. But with the current Boston Celtic closing in on retirement, I have a feeling that sentiment will probably change once O’Neal’s playing days are over.
Not to mention O’Neal has already donated the money for the completion of the Seimone Augustus statue!
Here’s a closer look at what the statue will look like: