By Rahman J. Dukes
Today NBA superstar Shaquille O'Neal celebrates his 39th birthday but every year around this time the hulking basketball star is haunted by the death of one of his friends, fellow iconic celebrity the Notorious B.I.G.
Shaq, just as the same with the late Christopher Wallace share the same age both coming into their respective fields at the height of their careers kicking in the door waving … well you know the rest.
Celebrating his birthday and remembering his rap pal on the heels of Tuesdays 14th anniversary of the Bed Stuy spitters death, Shaq spoke with ESPN's "Outside the Lines" as he recalls working with Smalls and gives his account of his last meeting with B.I.G. and how he could have possibly changed the tragic night where the MC was shot and killed in Los Angeles.
"First time I heard Biggie Smalls was he said my name in a rap" Shaq told ESPN. "Said 'I'm slamming brothers like Shaquille, s--t is real' … And instantly I became a fan."
Not long after Shaq and Smalls would have an in person meeting that would eventually lead to a music collaboration.
"When I seen him I saw that he was a big guy. It's an unwritten rule that all big guys stick together."
One of B.I.G.'s most coveted raps was his appearance on Shaq's "You Can't Stop The Reign" off the same titled 1996 release.
"My concept was always to rap with my favorite rappers" Shaq recalled of wanting to record with B.I.G. "So i put out a call to him and asked if he would do a song with me."
"I was nervous" Shaq continued. "The reason why I was nervous was because he was the greatest. We went to the studio and he got done in five minutes. Was the most incredible thing I ever seen in my life."
Roughly a half year later little did Shaquille know that his run in with Smalls would be his last. The two were set to hook up and attend a Soul Train Awards after party but it never happened.
"I was in my condo. I had on a cold white suit, white hat and all that. I was on my way. I was dressed. Ready to go," said O'Neal.
"I just fell asleep. I woke up about 4 o'clock from a call from my mother," Shaq said. "She said 'Did you go to the party?' I'm like, 'No, what're you talking about?' She said, 'You know, your friend was shot.' And I was like, 'What?' So then I hung up with her and called some people and they told me what had happened."
Shaq says the day Smalls was killed was one of the darkest days he could remember.
"It was a sad day for everyone. Sad day for everyone."
Although the late great Frank White is no longer in the essence to compete for his throne, Shaq says his music lives on stronger than ever.
"I just was thinking that i'm fortunate enough to say that I knew him. Fortunate enough to say that he blessed me with 32 bars on my album. i'm blessed enough to say that he knew me and I knew him. So I really don't think about the bad times just think about the good times. Even when I hear his verses on different beats it still sounds like he's still here."