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Shaquille O’Neal intends to buy Bill Russell’s championship rings at auction

Basketball legend and 11-time NBA champion Bill Russell worked up sports memorabilia enthusiasts and collectors into a frenzy when he announced an auction of 429 lots featuring items from his iconic career.

Unfortunately, Russell devotees who find themselves a little lighter in the pocketbooks are facing some pretty stiff — and wealthy — competition in any bid to secure certain pieces of the Boston Celtics legend’s legacy: Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal.

“I’d like to take some of that stuff off their hands,” O’Neal said on TNT’s “Inside the NBA” this week, via an AP Report, by way of the The Washington Post. “To be able to have all 11 of those rings, nobody’s outbidding me on that one.”

Shaq apparently was a bit misinformed as to what’s exactly available in the auction. Russell is only selling his first and last NBA title rings. A handful of other rings, including his Hall of Fame ring, among others, are also on the block.

O’Neal is not the only “Inside the NBA” panelist who is keenly interested in securing some Russell memorabilia. Fellow Hall of Famer Charles Barkley also expressed a desire in procuring some items during Tuesday’s show.

“What he’s done for civil rights in this country is unmatched,” Barkley said on the broadcast. “Him and (Muhammad) Ali will always be my heroes as far as that goes. It’s easy to be a social justice guy now when you’ve got $100 million, you’re making $30-40 million a year, but those guys did all the heavy lifting back in the day. I think I might look at that auction and bid on something.”

Overseen by Hunt Auctions, the sale of the Russell memorabilia is expected to generate millions. The item with the current highest bid is the jersey Russell wore during his last NBA game in the 1969 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. As of Thursday afternoon, online bidding has already exceeded $400,000.

“There’s no question this is one of the most significant athlete collections ever to come up for auction,” said Hunt Auctions President David Hunt, who has also worked on collections from Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Roberto Clemente. “We’ve been very fortunate to work with some of the icons in sports. There’s no question Bill is in that group.”

Russell, who remains a passionate and outspoken social activist well into his late 80s after becoming a civil rights icon during his career, put up some of the ample memorabilia from his storied NBA career to raise funds for his favorite charitable organizations. Proceeds from the auction will benefit Mentor and Boston Celtics United For Social Justice, per Celtics Wire.

The entire Russell collection available at auction can be seen here. After opening last week, the auction will conclude Friday with a live event at TD Garden, the Celtics’ home arena.