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The Ultimate Hoops league is the largest recreational basketball league in the country. Powered by Life Time Fitness, Ultimate Hoops League is a 24/7 oncourt, online, basketball experience. UH offers the best leagues with an interactive statistical website, featuring personal player profiles that turn "Average Joes" into basketball superstars. With the ability to track players stats for their entire career, your basketball career begins and ends with Ultimate Hoops.
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Chad Vanderpoel
10/6/2014  12:56 PM

CHICAGO: Larger Than Life - In Loving Memory of Manu "Shaq" Williams

Manu 'Shaq' Williams

In Loving Memory of Manu 'Shaq' Williams

Larger Than Life

Larger than life. What does that mean? Who can be larger than life? It’s someone who has an aura of greatness about them. It’s someone who is exceedingly imposing, impressive, or memorable.

Manu “Shaq” Williams was a man who had a physically massive stature that projected strength, however it was the person that he was that was his real strength. His presence was comforting and friendly. He was impressive and beyond memorable. He had that aura of greatness about him that attracted people to him. He was larger than life.

Shaq’s physical presence was taken from the many friends and family way too early as he passed away in his mid-30s on September 28th, 2014. His spirit, however, will live on with the many that were graced by him. Whether it was through the countless league nights where Shaq took stats and conducted interviews for Ultimate Hoops or in the halls and fitness floor of Life Time Fitness, he was the guy you would see and find comfort. Everyone wanted to be around Shaq. He had that quality that could gravitate people towards him and in return they were infected with the good that he brought to the world, a true blessing.

Shaq was a large individual that it would seem would intimidate many but there was way more to him. “I remember when I first met Shaq and just remembering in my head, ‘wow that’s a big dude, would definitely want to be on his good side’ but then after getting to know him, he was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet,” recalls UH player and friend Doug Lambert.

Nearly a decade ago Shaq joined Life Time and quickly had an impact on the friends he made there. His friends meant so much to him. “He truly valued friendships and genuine people. He really cared for his close friends and would always stick up for them. I’ve known Shaq since I became a member 8 years ago and I haven’t made a friend like him that I know would have my back as much as he did,” said one of his closest friends Ken Strong.

Not long after, Shaq became part of the Ultimate Hoops family and was very much one of the faces of Ultimate Hoops in Chicago. He was part of it from the beginning. Shaq’s ability to be involved with the action, the conversations, and all the other circus happening on league night, yet be absolutely on point with his tracking of stats was unparalleled. Players and spectators flocked to be around the scorer’s table because Shaq was there. He had that quality about him.

Another quality about him that brought so many smiles to peoples’ faces was his laughter. Fellow Ultimate Hoops statistician and great friend of Shaq, Talia Williams details one evening in particular, “It was another league night. We were laughing and joking as always. We were taking stats when right smack in the middle of a heated game, the smallest little old lady walked right through the basketball game. As she started through the court, each player just stopped in their tracks and froze. She slowly worked across the length of the court. To say she walked was an exaggeration. She truly shuffled taking each step barely in front of the other. As the guys froze in bewilderment, everyone looked back at Shaq and I as if thinking, ‘did you guys put her up to this?’ Shaq, being the polite man that he was, tried with all his might to hold back but gave in after glancing over and seeing me keeled over with laughter. He gave in and out came that deep belly laugh that everyone knows and loves so much.

It was the kind of laugh that no matter how you were feeling that day it would instantly change your mood. It only made you wonder why he was laughing and want to start laughing yourself. Remembering and hearing that laugh reminds everyone of his wonderful presence and light.

“If it weren't for Shaq, I wouldn't have smile and laugh lines or the ridiculous amount of memories from the league and Life Time and I definitely wouldn't have the happiness in my heart that I do now if I wouldn't have met him,” said Williams.

Others have great memories of Shaq at the scorer’s table. UH statistician Crystal Lambert shares, “As statisticians we sat and talked about everybody’s game, good bad or indifferent. It was like we were doing a show for ESPN. He always had something positive to say and we laughed at everything.”

While he joined the team as a statistician it didn’t take him long to get in front of the camera and show everyone his personality. Most people when they have a camera put in their face are very hesitant and shy but that all changed when Shaq was in front of the camera with you. That all went away. It was comfortable. His presence and charisma actually made many want to be in front of the lights. He was one of the best with the mic in his hand. He was very inviting to those who wanted to join him but that didn’t stop him from teasing and only granting an exclusive interview if your performance merited it.

Delvon Moneyham recalls the times when Shaq did interviews, “I got excited because everybody who was good got an interview and then one day he told me he’s got to show me some love and interviewed me. I remember how fun it was finally getting to do an interview with him.“

Shaq had so many qualities that made him special to so many. His personality took things to a level few can do and he made the gym a very special place because of his overpowering care for everyone. He always looked out for friends and made sure they were ok, often with a big smile and the strongest hug.

Even at the end of his time with Ultimate Hoops and life changes he expressed how much he was going to miss it but didn’t want to leave his teammates ever in a bind so he graciously exited completely. That didn’t mean he disappeared. He still popped into the gym to see the action and check in on everyone. The many faces of Ultimate Hoops were like family to him.

The family of Ultimate Hoops and Life Time will forever miss that guy who was the ‘can do anything’, invincible hulk on the outside and that guy who was one of the best men with the biggest, kindest heart of gold. That guy who was like a bodyguard and protector will surely now be a guardian angel to many.

That guy, Manu “Shaq” Williams, was the greatest guy with a personality and warmth larger than life itself.

To remind us all of the greatness of Shaq, here is his final interview he conducted with Ultimate Hoops

Please feel free to comment with any great memory of Shaq that you would like to share with his many friends and family.

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