The Miami Heat’s marriage with Shaquille O’Neal didn’t last a full four years but despite the messy divorce in 2008, there were plenty of memories made before the ‘Big Aristotle’ left for Arizona (and left there for Cleveland, then ended things in Boston before moving on to a life of being a television analyst and pitchman).
As O’Neal is inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, it’s understandable for Heat fans to want to sit back and remember the short yet memorable time Shaq spent with the Heat.
Although he played in just 245 games — including 40 postseason contests — with Miami, the Heat will honor O’Neal by retiring his No. 32 this coming season.
On and off the court, O’Neal definitely made his presence felt in South Florida.
5. Welcome to Miami
Pat Riley pulled off a blockbuster when he acquired Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal from the Lakers in exchange for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first round pick. When the deal was done — and Shaq got his new $30 million deal from Miami — the city had a welcoming party which featured its new hero arriving at the arena in a decked-out 18-wheeler.
4. Merry Shaqmas
Shaq’s rivalry with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers continued upon his exit from Los Angeles. The NBA gave us all a Christmas gift in 2004 with Miami visiting Staples Center on Dec. 25. The Heat won 104-102 in overtime although Shaq fouled out in the fourth — as Bryant crashed the lane. “When you've got a Corvette that runs into a brick wall,” O’Neal said, “you know what's going to happen.”
3. Back at ya
Dikembe Mutombo was known for wagging his finger after blocking a shot but Shaq made sure when he threw down a dunk, everyone knew about it — even his pal Mutombo. In a game at Houston, Shaq grabbed a rebound off his own missed dunk over Mutombo then slammed it home. Shaq gave Mutombo the finger wag as he backtracked down the court.
2. Motor City revenge
Miami held a 3-2 series lead in the 2005 Eastern Conference finals only to watch Detroit storm back and take the series — after rallying from a seven-point deficit in Miami in Game 7. “We had a lot of opportunities to get it done,” O’Neal said. He did the next year, as Shaq averaged almost 22 points and 11 rebounds in the six-game series. Shaq had 28 points with 16 boards as the Heat slammed Detroit 95-78 in Game 6 at AAA to send Miami to its first trip to the Finals.
1. Promise kept
When Shaq arrived in Miami, he promised a championship would soon follow. It took two seasons, but the Heat did indeed win a title with O’Neal as Miami rallied from an 0-2 deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks in 6 for the 2006 NBA crown. Dwyane Wade won MVP honors but Shaq got his fourth — and final — championship ring.
Off the court, O’Neal was active with business and philanthropic endeavors.
When he arrived in South Florida, O’Neal announced a partnership bringing 24-hour workout facilities through L.A. Fitness to the region.
O’Neal was, and continues to be, involved with the local police.
In 2004, Shaq became working with Miami Beach to become a reserve officer.
One late night after a road game in Chicago, O’Neal and his bodyguard chased down a couple late-night revelers who struck O’Neal’s Cadillac Escalade and fled the scene in their car.
A year later, O’Neal helped nab the suspect of a hate crime on South Beach.
Earlier this year, Shaq was sworn in as a reserve officer in Doral.
And, according to Barry University, O’Neal can be called ‘Dr. Shaq’ as he was awarded a doctorate in education at the James L. Knight Center in 2012.