KANSAS CITY, Mo. – By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O’Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
What is often forgotten is just how far fate stretched for it to happen.
It wasn’t a large army base – Wildflecken was so remote that the nearest large city was several hours away. Soldiers despised the high altitude and lousy weather.
“For him to show up,” O’Neal said, “that meant everything to me.”
Brown would ultimately give O’Neal the confidence he needed to attend college, something he had never dreamed possible, and make it into the NBA, back then not even a dream. So it made sense that O’Neal and Brown would be inducted together into the College Basketball Hall of Fame on Sunday night.
They were joined by six other luminaries, including former Duke star Grant Hill, Louisville standout Darrell Griffith, longtime Maryland coach Gary Williams, Stetson’s Glenn Wilkes Sr., Five-Star Basketball Camp founder Howard Garfinkel and the late Prairie View star Zelmo Beaty.
“I’m most excited to be here next to the guy who gave me the opportunity,” O’Neal said, “because at 13, 6-foot-9, I had zero confidence. I wasn’t even thinking about going to college, going to the NBA. And Coach Brown sent me letters every week, ‘How are you doing?’
O’Neal went on to win two national player of the year awards, average 22 points and 14 rebounds and set school records for blocks.
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