Fourteen years ago Wednesday, the Notorious B.I.G. (aka Christopher Wallace) was murdered in Los Angeles after the Soul Train Music Awards. It was a massive loss for the music community, not only because Biggie was and still is one of the greatest rappers of all time, but because he was the kind of creative force that made everyone around him better. His absence is still felt in the genre to this day.
What does any of this have to do with basketball? Well, as discussed in the ESPN "Outside the Lines" feature above (via @jose3030), Shaquille O'Neal(notes) (then in his first season with the Lakers) was supposed to hang out with Biggie at a party on that fateful night. The two became friends during Shaq's early recording career and even performed together on the track "Can't Stop the Reign" for his third album. That song's not "Juicy," but it's also far from the most ridiculous cut of Shaq's middling forays into the world of rap.
According to O'Neal, he only missed the party because his friend was unable to make it through security to pick him up. Shaq fell asleep instead, and only woke up when his mother contacted him with news about the shooting. Ever since, he's wondered if he could have made a difference on the night, even writing the following in his autobiography "Shaq Talks Back": "If I would've been standing by his truck, would the killer still have shot? I've always asked that question." Others wonder the same in this clip, including Biggie's cousin.
There's no way of knowing, of course, but this clip is interesting regardless for its look into how Shaq views the murder. In his own words:
I just think that I was fortunate enough to say that I knew him. Fortunate enough to say that he blessed me with 32 bars on my album. And I'm blessed enough to say that he knew me and I knew him. So I don't really think about the bad times, I think about the good times. He is the greatest now. Even now, when I listen to his verse on different beats, it still sounds like he's still here.
Shaq is solemn throughout and clearly still thinks about Biggie often. The same is true of the rapper's many fans, who hold him up as the standard for all other rappers. Shaq obviously had a different connection to the man, but the feelings here are not so different. It's sad that Biggie had to leave the world at such a young age. But we're all blessed to have heard his music.
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