O'Neal thanks Lakers fans for support

Updated: July 25, 2004, 4:37 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- The Big Guy had a big-hearted message for his Los Angeles fans Sunday.

Shaquille O'Neal took out a full-page advertisement in the Los Angeles Times to thank his fans for their support during his eight years with the Los Angeles Lakers. O'Neal signed last week with the Miami Heat, marking the end of an era during which the Lakers won three NBA championships.

"I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your incredible support over the last eight years," O'Neal said in the ad, which included a picture of him smiling and gripping a basketball in one hand. "I am moving on to the next chapter in my career, but I will never forget the support that you gave me."

O'Neal, whose dispute with Lakers management led to his departure, told Lakers fans, "I will miss each and every one of you."

"You have been there with me through it all -- we never could have won any of the championships without you," he said.

The Lakers are rebuilding their team around superstar guard Kobe Bryant, who signed a seven-year contract worth more than $136 million. Rudy Tomjanovich will replace Phil Jackson as coach, and former Laker Vlade Divac, who was traded in1996, will return to replace O'Neal at center.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press