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Shaquille O'Neal has been nominated to the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. (MGNonline)

Shaquille O'Neal has been nominated to the Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. (MGNonline)

Dale, Shaq walk through Hall doors together

Last Modified: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 4:49 PM

By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

This ought to be fun.

The Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame must have been begging for some fireworks.

Maybe the ratings have been down.

But if you get suspicious when the NCAA tournament ends up with Kentucky-Louisville matched up in the Sweet 16, get a load of what college basketball’s hall of fame cooked up Tuesday.

It announced its latest induction class, apparently with an eye toward high entertainment.

Maybe the committee had a mandate to liven things up a tad.

But Shaquille O’Neal and Dale Brown, together, in the same room, part of the same incoming class?

That’s what the hall of fame has in mind after including the LSU duo in the latest class.

Probably just a coincidence.

Not that both don’t belong in the hall of fame. Of course they do. No-brainer picks.

Brown is the SEC’s second-winningest coach (behind only Kentucky’s Adolph Rupp), Shaq is the Big Aristotle, or whatever nickname he’s playfully bestowed upon himself this week.

Brown sold basketball at LSU, no easy chore, even made his game a state staple for a good, long while, often by turning it into a three-ring circus with shameless showmanship and endless hyperbole.

Shaquille is Shaq now, which needs no explanation. But O’Neal became Shaq at LSU, under Brown, as the state watched.

It just seems a little too perfect that they’ll go in together when the ceremonies are celebrated November in Kansas City.

Probably just a coincidence.

But it is perfect.

It doesn’t seem like they do much apart lately.

O’Neal eventually became the more famous, but he made sure to include his old coach prominently in the festivities when his retirement from the NBA became a televised, three-ring extravaganza.

O’Neal was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame last summer, when Daddy Dale doing the honors of presenting him.

This should be quite a show, too.

Between another one of Brown’s revival meetings and Shaq’s penchant for play-along silliness, the other inductees might struggle to get their names mentioned.

It’s quite a show, the fawning father figure with never-ending words of wisdom and the giant, lovable lunk of a kid who never has to grow up, a 7-foot Peter Pan.

If only Louisiana needed another reality TV show, they should about have it down pat by now.

Given the source, the story is probably exaggerated, but Brown still loves spinning the “tall” tale about the first time he met Shaquille O’Neal.

Brown, ever the globetrotter, was in West Germany at a U.S. Army base, winding up a tour of basketball clinics he’d been giving all over Europe.

He was a approached by who he thought was a lanky soldier who stood about 6-foot-8.

The shy but polite kid wanted to know if Brown could suggest some drills to improve his agility.

Brown gave him a few and, Brown being Brown, no doubt threw in a few uplifting, life-changing anecdotes about how to battle life’s ups and downs and in-betweens.

Finally, Brown, making idle conversation, asked him how long he’d been in the Army.

“I’m not old enough,” the young Shaq replied.”I’m only 13, sir.”

Huh?

“I’d like to meet your father,” Brown said.

Brown tracked down O’Neal’s dad, Sgt. Phillip Harrison, and made sure to strike up a friendship that was nurtured as only Brown could.

Brown tells the story, and fairly, convincingly, that he was most impressed not with O’Neal’s basketball potential, but with the family’s insistence that the youngster become a complete person, an educated difference-maker-type person.

Brown has always been a stickler for such.

It is worth noting, however, that even as Brown continued to inquire about O’Neal’s spiritual progress during the stay-in-touch period, the youngster continued to grow physically … and grow, and grow and grow.

So they stayed in touch, alrighty. By the time O’Neal, now stateside and flirting with 7-feet, graduated from high school in San Antonio as maybe the nation’s top prospect, he didn’t really consider any school but LSU.

Hard to believe now, but when O’Neal arrived at LSU, he was a pretty raw basketball player and not much of a comedian.

He was, in fact, a pretty shy kid.

No matter. Brown never minded played the carnival barker when he had a top player.

Shaq picked up the basketball. My favorite statistic — Shaq would call it Shaq-tistic — was that he set the SEC single-season blocked shot record before he turned 18 years old.

But Shaquille learned to be Shaq. When he was inducted into the state’s hall of fame last summer, Shaquille admitted as much.

He thanked Louisiana for tolerating him while he was perfecting what he called the “Shaq character.”

Brown is quite a character too.

It should make for a must-see induction ceremony.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com

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