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Shaquille O’Neal shares heartwarming story of how Ernie Johnson changed his life

Shaquille O'Neal Ernie Johnson

Shaquille O’Neal shared the heartwarming story of how he first met Ernie Johnson during TNT’s “Inside the NBA” retrospective that aired Thursday night.

Yet to begin his freshman season at LSU in 1989, O’Neal recalled how Johnson visited his house to interview him when he was still just an upcoming college prospect. While Shaq already possessed the confidence that we’ve come to know him for, the future-MVP had yet to acquire any of the accolades that validated the belief he had in himself. After the visit from the well-known broadcaster, Shaquille O’Neal had all the credibility he needed.

“I talk about this all the time and you don’t believe me” Shaq told Johnson during the retrospective. “When Ernie came to my house in 1989, it made me the man on my little army base.

Watch the full clip for yourself below (Via Bleacher Report)

Though it would take O’Neal another 26 years to finally join Johnson on the set of “Inside the NBA,” Shaq told his fellow co-hosts that the interview was part of the reason he decided to pursue a career in broadcasting. In fact, the former big man claimed that Ernie was the sole reason he watched the groundbreaking show during his playing career.

While the story by Shaq contained the usual flare of dramatics that O’Neal usually sprinkles his stories with, it isn’t the first time we’ve heard current and former players heap praise on the show’s host. Having hosted the program since 1990, Johnson has become one of the most beloved and influential sportscasters around the NBA. While he has earned a reputation as a brilliant storyteller, Johnson’s most enduring trait is his ability to connect with and humanize the players he covers.

Over two decades later, that trait has helped him reach the pinnacle of the sports broadcasting landscape.