SHAQUILLE O’Neal’s career in South Beach may have been brief, but it was memorable enough for the Miami Heat to put his jersey up in the rafters of American Airlines Arena on Thursday (Friday, Manila time).
The Heat honored the Hall of Fame center by retiring his No. 32 jersey in a post-game ceremony, where Miami won against O’Neal’s former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, who had also retired his No. 34 at the Staples Center
A feud with fellow Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant sent O’Neal in a blockbuster trade to the Heat where he delivered on his promise to bring a championship to Miami, the team’s first alongside Dwyane Wade and the fourth of his career.
“When I came here in 2006, prior to that I was watching the Miami Heat playing the Charlotte Hornets and DWade, he was a fabulous player. I wish he was here. When I was getting traded from LA, if I wanted to play anywhere, I wanted to play in Miami,” O'Neal recalled.
O’Neal thanked Heat president Pat Riley, the Arison family which owns the team and his family who attended the ceremony led by his mother Lucille, who rode a miniature truck similar to the one he stepped out of during his introductory press conference in 2006.
Mama O'Neal showed up to the jersey retirement in style ???? https://t.co/asK0VkbdjX— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) December 23, 2016
“This is really unexpected, I thought it was one of my boys pranking me,” quipped O’Neal during his short speech.
Riley also had some fun on Shaq, who later quashed talks about a supposed rift between them.
Also present were O’Neal’s former Heat teammates that included Alonzo Mourning and Udonis Haslem.