On Monday, the Miami Heat announced that they would retire the jersey number of Shaquille O’Neal on Dec. 22 against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The presentation will get delivered at halftime, and O’Neal will see his number 32 jersey hoisted into the rafters of AmericanAirlines Arena. He’ll be joining the likes of Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning and Michael Jordan — yes, that Michael Jordan — as the only players to have their numbers retired by the franchise.
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) November 21, 2016
Shaq evolved into the most dominating player since Wilt Chamberlain when he was with the Lakers and the Orlando Magic, and that part of his career is well-documented. His three-peat in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant was the height of his career, but the Lakers dealt him after their relationship became estranged.
In essence, the franchise wanted to go forward with Bryant, not Shaq. Because of this, O’Neal wasn’t going to land a big contract, and he demanded a trade because he and ownership continued to butt heads.
O’Neal joined the Heat for 2004 season after the Lakers traded him for Caron Butler, Brian Grant, Lamar Odom, a first round pick in 2006 and a second round pick in 2007. The Diesel spent roughly four seasons in South Beach and boasted averages of 19.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks. Unfortunately, he had used up all of his dominating years in Los Angeles and Orlando, so Riley and Heat got a shell of the former MVP.
Regardless, he still aided Miami in their quest for a championship. During the 2006 Finals, O’Neal averaged 13.7 points and 10.2 rebounds, providing just enough backup for Dwyane Wade who played out of his mind in those six games.
Along with winning his fourth title, Shaq nabbed three more All-Star bids and bullied his way onto the All-NBA First Team in 2004-05 and 2005-06.
Over his years with Miami, O’Neal cracked the leaderboard for numerous metrics, including field goal percentage, points per game and PER:
- Field Goal Percentage: 59.6 percent, 2nd
- Points Per Game: 19.6, 3rd
- Blocks Per Game: 1.9, 3rd
- Rebounds Per Game: 9.1, 4th
- Player Efficiency: 23.9, 4th
Mid-way through the 2007-08 season, the organization dealt Shaq to Phoenix. In return, Miami got Marcus Banks and Shawn Marion.
After being shipped off, O’Neal spent three more seasons in the NBA before finally calling it quits, and Pat Riley said recently that bringing on Shaq was bigger than forming the Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
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