Thousands poured into Gallager-Iba Arena Tuesday to see a big legend in professional basketball.
Shaquille O’Neal visited Stillwater ready to take questions from hosts Oklahoma State University basketball coach Travis Ford, graduating basketball player Keiton Page and others attending Tuesday’s event hosted by the OSU Student Government Association Speakers Board.
One student, Marti Going, 19, said she was ready to see the big man.
“He’s a celebrity,” Going said. “(I’m) coming to see Shaq.”
Another student, Matt Ogg, 20, said he grew up watching O’Neal play for multiple teams.
As he made his way onstage, O’Neal jokingly referenced the Cowboys’ rival.
“What’s up Oklahoma Sooners?” O’Neal said. “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m sorry, wrong place. Just kidding. Just wanted to see if you were awake.”
Saying it was his first time in Stillwater, O’Neal was welcomed by Ford.
“It wasn’t that long ago that Shaq and I were on the same court when he was at LSU and I was at Kentucky, and now we’re the old men,” said Ford.
The two reminisced about a play between their two teams in which Ford attempted to draw a charge, but a blocking foul was called instead.
O’Neal entertained the crowd with his quick responses. When asked what achievement he held in higher regard — his MVP award in 2000, his first rap album going platinum or his MBA — O’Neal suggested another achievement.
“What about Kazaam?” O’Neal said to loud applause. “Listen, you know what’s crazy? I’ve got more Kazaam fans here than anywhere in the world.”
He said his favorite award he will receive is his Ph.D. from Barry University in Florida on May 5.
“That’s probably the biggest one,” O’Neal said.