Shaq signs extension worth $88.5 million

Saturday, October 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) _ Pretty soon, Shaquille O'Neal just might be able to buy the team he plays for. Or at least come close.

O'Neal, who led the Los Angeles Lakers to their first championship since 1988 in June, has agreed to a contract extension with the team at maximum terms of three years and $88.5 million.

The extension means O'Neal, who came within one vote of becoming the league's first unanimous MVP last season, is under contract for six more seasons for more than $152 million.

``Usually, Friday the 13th would be a bad luck day,'' the 7-foot-1, 315-pounder said at a news conference. ``Today is a good luck day for me.

``If this day never would have come, you never would have heard from me, I would have just moved on.''

Getting the maximum allowed under the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, O'Neal will earn $26.5 million in the 2003-2004 season, $29.5 million in 2004-2005, and $32.5 million in 2005-2006.

``I look forward to ending my career as a Laker,'' he said. ``Having one championship is like having one car _ it's not enough for me. Last year was a start for us. Hopefully we can keep going. I'm never going to be satisfied with just one.''

O'Neal won his second NBA scoring title last season, averaging a career-high 29.7 points on 57.4 percent shooting. He was second in rebounding with a 13.6 average, and also averaged 3.03 blocks and a career-high 3.8 assists.

``This is clearly one of the brightest days in this franchise's history,'' Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said, adding that he believes O'Neal already ranks among the all-time NBA greats.

``The only thing he was missing was a championship,'' Kupchak said. ``In the past six or seven years, he's dominated the game. There have been some players who have put together three, four, five incredible years. I think 10 years is a benchmark, people look at 10 years as a span of time to measure greatness. He's very close to 10 years.

''(Bill) Russell, (Wilt) Chamberlain, Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar), Hakeem (Olajuwon) _ quite frankly, he could be there right now.''

O'Neal joined the Lakers as a free agent in July 1996, signing a seven-year contract for more than $120 million. The 28-year-old center played his first four NBA seasons for the Orlando Magic after three years at LSU.

``I'm happy. You might not see it on my face,'' he said. ``My dreams have never really ranged this far. I'm truly happy.

``I'm not really a big spender, I can get a lot of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. The way I'm going to celebrate is I'm going to go get all my teammates gifts. Most of them said they wanted Rolexes. So I'm about to go to the mall and hook them up, because without them none of this would be possible.

``They made me look good, (Lakers owner) Dr. (Jerry) Buss has taken care of me, so I'm going to make them look good.''

O'Neal will be 34 when the contract expires. When asked if this might be his final contract, he replied, ``I really can't answer that.''

Said Kupchak: ``Maybe we can look at another six or seven-year extension at that time.''

Buss returned from vacation Oct. 1 and worked out a deal with O'Neal's agent, Leonard Armato, in a short period of time.

``I think we've pretty much had the highest-paid player for a quarter of a century,'' Buss said. ``We have another one. I think the length of the extension and the amount of money was never an issue. There are a number of small things that go into these contracts. It just takes time. I don't want to go into the details.''

Buss said last week he intended to have the extension completed before the Lakers open defense of their championship Oct. 31 at Portland, the team they beat in the Western Conference finals last June.

``We have a pretty good team, and we have the combo,'' O'Neal said, referring to Kobe Bryant and himself. ``We have the best team on paper, we match up with anyone.''