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Mavs' 7-footers will miss Shaq

MIAMI – They don’t have fond memories of trying to stop the big man from scoring, but the Mavs’ 7-footers will miss Shaquille O’Neal.

“He's one of the all-time greats, not only on the court, but off the floor,” said Dirk Nowitzki, who got to know the Big Fill In the Blank at All-Star games. “He's going to be missed. Just his comments on and off the floor. He always had something funny to say, he always made you smile, made you laugh, just his personality."

Tyson Chandler’s personal connection with Shaq dates to Chandler’s days as a high school sensation at Compton Dominguez in Los Angeles. Shaq, then the Lakers’ centerpiece, became a mentor to Chandler, giving him valuable advice about life in the NBA.

“He meant so much to youngsters like myself coming up in the game,” Chandler said. He mentored a lot of us. And it was always a pleasure to watch him. He never disappointed.”

Brendan Haywood, who half-kids that Shaq took it easy on him when Haywood was a “young pup in the league, remembers being awed by just how massive Shaq is. Haywood called Shaq the most physically imposing force in NBA history but declined to participate in the debate about where Shaq ranked among the legendary big men.

“He’s a great player. There’s no need to put him here or there,” Haywood said. “He’s an all-time great, he’s a Hall of Famer, he’s a legend. Who cares who goes before who?”