Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Holding a glass of cold beverage, Li Du and the giant-like O’Neal entered the second story of the house.
“This is my gym. If you like sports, then you might find what you see down there very beautiful,” O’Neal said as he pushed open the door.
It was a huge room that spanned across more than fifty square meters. Team uniforms were hung up on the wall. There were jerseys of basketballers, rugby players and other sports.
Among them, the one that hung in the front was the Lakers’ Yellow No. 34. It was the jersey of O’Neal when he played for the Lakers. The few jerseys behind it had O’Neal’s name on them too, and the colors were different. They looked like they would make up the colors of the rainbow.
As one of the top ten players in the history of American basketball, O’Neal had a rich history of playing for many different teams during his career.
He owned all the jerseys on the wall. The other three jerseys belonged to other sports stars and had their signature on them. From Tiger Woods to Federer, Li Du also saw other jerseys with the signature of the Chinese player Yao Ming and the gymnastics prince Li Ning.
Noticing that Li Du was looking at Yao Ming’s jersey, O’Neal grinned. He said, “Yao, yeah, he is my buddy, you must be familiar with him? He is one of the most admired players, and he is also a wise guy. He changed my views on you Chinese people.”
The narrative between O’Neal and Yao Ming was unclear. At the beginning of the latter’s entry into the US professional basketball team, O’Neal had certain opinions about him. That was because after Yao Ming entered the scene, O’Neal was no longer able to be a starting player of the Western All-Star team.
Because of this, O’Neal would always make things difficult for Yao Ming. To be honest, Yao Ming was no match for O’Neal. Even after the latter got on in years, he was still able to beat Yao Ming.
On the basketball court, O’Neal was the sort of big star that comes around once in fifty years!
Later, with the decline of his career, and when Yao Ming became more powerful, O’Neal changed his attitude towards the Chinese player. In addition, Yao Ming also used his outlook on life to win the admiration of O’Neal himself and his family.
There were some trophies and medals on the table in the gym. They were the evidence of victories that O’Neal had gained when he was young, including the NBA championship trophy and Olympics medal.
In addition, there were many photographs in the room. Among them, there was one where O’Neal and Kobe hugged each other, smiling widely.
“You’ve watched the news that time, when they said that Kobe and I are enemies and that we hate each other to the core, right? In fact, that was exaggerated. We were often complaining about each other, but remained friends. It’s just that we were not as close as before.”
Looking at the photograph, O’Neal started to smile. He said, “I hated him before, but I never thought of him as an enemy. Otherwise, would I still keep this photo here? Would you?”
Li Du coughed. “Perhaps I would. If I have enemies, I would hang their photos on the wall and then practice shooting at them.”
With that, he started to laugh.
O’Neal laughed too as he patted Li Du’s shoulder and said, “Ha, you are as witty as Kobe. I’ve done that before. I’ve torn up hundreds of his photos!”
Of course, that was a joke. Unlike Kobe, O’Neal enjoyed joking.
After laughing, he became serious again. He said, “If I wanted to do that, I would hang up the photo of us together. Since the photo has both of us in it, of course I wouldn’t shoot.”
Li Du nodded. “I understand. You still view him as your good friend.”
O’Neal pursed his lips and said slowly, “We were once close as brothers, buddy. That’s no joke. Bothers, to us black people, is not as simple as you think. We would fight together like brothers. Unfortunately, at that time, we were both too young and too hung up over our pride and our feelings. It was very dumb.”
He sat on a sofa and said, “Mind listening to a story? An NBA story that the media never reported on.”
Li Du said, “I can’t wait to hear it. But can we take a photo together? I’d need to tell my friends that Shaquille O’Neal told me a story.”
O’Neal laughed again. “You can snap one yourself, I’ve done that before.” They left the gym. There was a small basketball court in the mansion, named Shaquille Center.
Shaquille was very narcissistic. Many things in his home were named after himself.
They chatted for a while, sipping cold drinks. O’Neal started to tell the story of what happened between him and Kobe and mentioned some of the past rumors, some of which Li Du had never heard of.
Everyone said that O’Neal and Kobe had fallen out because they were competing for the most important position in the Lakers. In fact, that was not the main reason. O’Neill was 32 when he left the Lakers. For center players, that was the age where they generally started to go into decline.
O’Neal was willing to make way for Kobe and help him to get to the top. However, Kobe had asked for a big contract. The team boss, Bath, did not want to comply. Hence, he ingeniously manipulated O’Neal’s relationship with Kobe, and then fed the rumors of it to the media.
In the end, what happened in the eyes of the fans was that Kobe Bryant drove O’Neill out to reach the top.
Kobe was a proud and paranoid man. He did not like to talk much and would swallow whatever he was going through and do what he had to.
Hence, as he did not bother to refute the rumors, the reports were taken as the truth.
O’Neal said regretfully, “Man, believe me, if both of us were as mature as we are now, our friendship would not have fallen apart. We would have continued to rule the league and win another three or four championships. We had that capability!”
What could Li Du say? He said with conviction, “No doubt about that!”
Compared to Kobe and James, O’Neal preferred to fool around and was easier to interact with. He learned that Godzilla had practiced basketball and had a matchup with him on the court.
Although O’Neal was already in his forties and had gone out of shape after his retirement, he still managed to crush Godzilla with his techniques.
That was true; he did not rely merely on his strength and agility but was a real wiz in the technique of the game. He managed to fool Godzilla with his play.
Li Du presented the sculpture to O’Neal, and O’Neal gave him an invitation. In less than a month, Kobe would be celebrating his birthday and O’Neal invited Li Du to join in the party.
“Then, you have to witness everything that the gift will bring us,” O’Neill smiled. He continued, “I have to take it to Kobe. He will love this. You can help me solve a big problem. I have been thinking about what gift to give him recently.”
Li Du smiled and extended his hand. “If I’m able to, I will definitely make it.”
He was not trying to play hard to get. As he just arrived in Los Angeles, he was very busy and had many things on his hands to sort out.
For example, he had to deal with matters related to the manor, and the Dripping Blood gang had started trying to lay their hands on it.