Shaq escorts Angel Reese for LSU's senior day

Shaquille O'Neal walks Angel Reese out for senior day (0:23)

Shaquille O'Neal walks Angel Reese out to the court on her senior day at LSU. (0:23)

LSU Tigers star Angel Reese celebrated her senior day Sunday with a special guest in attendance.

LSU and NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal escorted Reese for her senior day ceremony at halftime of LSU's 77-56 win over Kentucky, with him and Reese's mother flanking the 2023 Final Four Most Outstanding Player as she made her way onto the court.

O'Neal and Reese's family wore matching shirts that said on the back, "Bayou Barbie is My Favorite Senior."

Reese and O'Neal have developed a close bond over the last year, especially as she has become one of the most prominent female athletes in the country. Reese told USA Today earlier this season that she considers O'Neal not just a mentor, but a "father figure."

"It's been great. Who's better than a person like Shaq?" Reese said postgame when asked about O'Neal becoming her support system. "He's really smart, not just on the basketball court, but just in life. He has his doctorate, so he's educated, being a lot of things outside of basketball. Being able to have somebody like that has been a great inspiration for me. And of course enjoying the moment like this with him and the rest of my family was fun tonight."

O'Neal -- who was a former national player of the year in Baton Rouge and whose number is retired by the Tigers -- said previously on his podcast that Reese is "probably the greatest athlete to come out of LSU sports ... male and female."

Last April, she led LSU to its first basketball national championship title, men's or women's.

Reese has followed that up by building a strong case for SEC Player of the Year in 2023-24, averaging 19.0 points, 13.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game this season.

With a robust business profile in his post-playing days, O'Neal has also guided Reese -- one of the biggest beneficiaries of NIL -- in her off-court business endeavors. She recently signed with Reebok, where O'Neal is the president of basketball.

Reese and fellow senior Hailey Van Lith are both eligible to return to college for a fifth year due to the waiver athletes received during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though Tigers fans clamored for "one more year" from both Reese and Van Lith during the senior day ceremony, both players said they are focused on the season and will make their decisions afterward.

LSU secured the No. 2 seed in the SEC tournament this upcoming week and looks to return to the Final Four when the NCAA tournament kicks off later this month.

"I want to leave my legacy as somebody that was just unapologetically me," Reese said. "Being able to just come in every day, be happy, work hard and do whatever it takes to win. I mean, I feel like I made a lot of sacrifices coming here, not really knowing what it was going to be like and taking a step of faith, and understanding and letting other players know, taking a step of faith is hard but you can do it and look how it changes your life ... On and off the court I was able to grow my own person and be who I am, and that's what I want to leave my legacy as."