Pat Riley called Shaquille O’Neal, not LeBron James, the Heat’s biggest acquisition in franchise history in an interview with the Sun-Sentinel this week.
“I'll say this, and I mean this,” the Heat president and former head coach said, “Shaq's acquisition was bigger than any acquisition that we ever made, including the Big Three.”
O’Neal will enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday, and joined the Heat via trade in 2004, helping a young Dwyane Wade win the first title in franchise history in 2006. Wade, of course, would later team with free agent signings LeBron James and Chris Bosh to win titles in 2012 and 2013 and compete in four straight Finals.
Also part of that conversation was Alonzo Mourning, whom the Heat traded for in 1995. “Zo was big," Riley says, "but getting Shaquille changed everything for our franchise.” Riley said O’Neal, just a year removed from three titles in Los Angeles, gave the franchise legitimacy.
Miami will retire O’Neal’s No. 32 jersey this season, making him the third player in franchise history to receive the honor.