MIAMI -- Shaquille O'Neal wants to pay more than respects to
the family of George Mikan.
O'Neal said Thursday that he wants the Mikan family to contact
the Miami Heat offices, so arrangements can be made for him to
handle funeral expenses for the league's first dominant big man.
Mikan died Wednesday night at a rehabilitation center in
Scottsdale, Ariz., following a long fight with diabetes and kidney
ailments. He was 80.
"I'd like to send my condolences to the Mikan family," O'Neal
said after Miami beat Detroit 88-76 in Game 5 of the Eastern
Conference finals on Thursday night. "I heard they were having
some trouble, some problems, so if you contact the Heat office, I
would like to pay for the funeral."
O'Neal credits Mikan as someone who helped lay the framework for
what the NBA is today.
"Without No. 99, there is no me," said O'Neal, referring to
Mikan by his jersey number.
Terry Mikan said he appreciated O'Neal's offer but said it would
be up to his mother whether to accept it.
"It just speaks to what Shaquille is all about," Mikan's son
said. "He had a bond with my dad. They were close friends."
O'Neal and Mikan were both selected to the NBA's list of 50
greatest players, and the two dominant big men of their eras met
"He was a great man. We had many, many conversations," O'Neal
said. "Very nice to me. I know what he was and I know what he
Both O'Neal and Mikan led the Lakers franchise to multiple NBA
championships; Mikan carried the Minneapolis Lakers to five titles
in a six-year span, O'Neal led the Los Angeles Lakers to three
consecutive championships from 2000-2002.
"Frankly, without George Mikan, the Los Angeles Lakers would
not be the organization we are today," said Los Angeles Lakers
owner Dr. Jerry Buss.
Others at the Eastern Conference finals offered their sentiments
on Mikan, including Heat president Pat Riley, who called Mikan
"the model for all big men that followed him."
"A truly genuine human being as well as a great player. He made
the game what it is today," Riley said.