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Bigger impact with the Miami Heat: Shaquille O'Neal or LeBron James?

Today marks the 16th anniversary of the Miami Heat acquiring Shaquille O'Neal

The Miami Heat have been fortunate enough to have two of the most transcendent players in NBA history. 

In 2004, they traded for Shaquille O'Neal. In 2010, they acquired LeBron James. Both recently appeared on ESPN's Top 74 players of all-time list, with James checking in at No. 2 and O'Neal at 10th

With today marking the 16-year anniversary of O'Neal joining the Heat, there is often debate on which player had a greater impact during their brief stints with the organization. James won two championships and two regular season MVPs in four seasons while O'Neal captured the franchise's first title in 2006. 

The numbers suggest James wins easily but O'Neal has a strong case. 

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Before O'Neal arrived, the Heat were an organization carried by Pat Riley's legacy. Sure, there was Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway and Glen Rice but Miami was far from a destination NBA stop. That all changed with O'Neal. He introduced himself that summer by riding on a diesel truck down Biscayne Boulevard, squirting water from a toy gun at the gathered crowd of thousands. Miami was officially Hollywood far before James' prediction to win "multiple" championships.

O'Neal nearly made good on his promise to win during his first season. Many felt he should have won MVP after leading the Heat to a 59-23 record and No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. They were perhaps a Dwyane Wade rib injury from knocking off the Detroit Pistons in the conference finals. A healthy Wade could have tied O'Neal with James for championships in Miami.  

The next season O'Neal helped the Heat win their first title. Wade won Finals MVP after an incredible showing but let's not forget how Dallas Mavericks coach Avery Johnson's decision to focus on O'Neal early played a role on the breakout. Once Johnson realized Wade was special, it was too late. 

No doubt, Wade was destined to become a perennial All-Star but playing alongside O'Neal sped the process for him developing into the best player in Heat history. 

O'Neal's legacy in Miami may never equal James' because of titles and MVPs. Still, it's a lot closer than most think.