- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Delivering on a promise he made earlier this month, 15-time NBA All-Star Shaquille O'Neal utilized the Boston Celtics' final preseason off-day to invade Harvard Square, where he posed as a statue and allowed fans to snap photos with him for nearly an hour Thursday afternoon.
O'Neal, clad in jeans and a black hooded sweatshirt, arrived in Harvard Square at 2 p.m. After a quick pit stop inside Au Bon Pain, where workers looked up in shock from their registers, O'Neal crossed Dunster Street and plopped down on a bench between the Harvard Square MBTA station and Out of Town News.
Fans immediately encircled him and, despite the jostling for position to take pictures next to him, O'Neal simply clasped his hands together and remained stoic as fans shuttled in and out around him. O'Neal couldn't help but smile at times, but didn't budge until he stood up to leave.
"The idea of the Shaq statue originated from watching TV one day," Shaq told ESPN. "I was watching the royal British guards. If you know anything about those guys they have tremendous discipline. The other idea is I always wanted to tell people I went to Harvard."
Shellie Dean of Dorchester had received a tweet from a friend notifying her that O'Neal was on his way to Harvard Square. Working at nearby Cambridge Trust Company, she rushed out when his Superman-stamped van pulled up (and a crowd formed) and secured her place at the front of the line.
"When he went into Au Bon Pain, we just kinda followed him," said Dean, who laughed while showing off her photos to those stuck at the back of the line. "I didn't think I'd get to meet him, but we were so close and we were ready."
Earlier this month, O'Neal announced his intentions to become a human statue during a radio appearance on the "Toucher & Rich" morning show on 98.5 the Sports Hub and those intrigued have been waiting for him to tweet the date it would occur.
About a half-hour before his appearance Thursday, he tweeted a message about his stunt, bringing a flurry of foot traffic to the already-bustling Harvard Square. The crowd only grew after O'Neal's arrival.
Missing were his teammates, who could only shake their heads when informed of O'Neal's plan earlier this month.
"What's he going to do?" asked Celtics captain Paul Pierce. "He's just going to sit there? Somebody get a picture of that and tweet it."
It's likely that thousands did. Camera phones were snapping away nonstop during O'Neal's visit.
When Kevin Garnett was asked if he'd come out for the festivities, he playfully scoffed at the idea.
"Absolutely not," said Garnett. "I will not be taking pictures of Shaq with bird [expletive] and all types of other people taking pictures. I'm cool. I see him in here; I'll take my pictures around here."
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
Shaqtue in the Square: Celtics star Shaquille O'Neal draws a crowd in Cambridge.