Sorry LeBron James, Alonzo Mourning and Chris Bosh… Shaquille O’Neal was the most significant trade acquisition in Miami Heat history, according to Heat president Pat Riley, at least.
The Riley-Shaq partnership ultimately soured after just three-and-a-half seasons, but Riley claims that Shaq gave the franchise “real legitimacy” and set the stage for the formation of the Big Three in 2010.
“The Big Three was a nice little thing at that time that fit in to a glove. Chris and LeBron were tired of losing in Toronto and Cleveland. Dwyane was a big asset to it. Miami was a big asset to it. Those guys were ready to move on. We had the room to do it, and they came.
“But the seminal moment to make us really, really legitimate, also to get us the marketing clout, the global clout, and also he delivered on the championship promise was Shaquille… Getting Shaquille changed everything.”
With Shaq set to be inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame next Friday, Riley took a moment to put Shaq’s career in Miami into perspective:
This is not, Pat Riley stresses, revisionist history. And it also is not, he insists, getting caught up in the moment that will have Shaquille O’Neal this coming Friday becoming the third former Miami Heat player to enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
“I’ll say this, and I mean this,” Riley says during a relaxed moment this past week, “Shaq’s acquisition was bigger than any acquisition that we ever made, including the Big Three.”
“The seminal moment,” Riley says, “to really make us really, really legitimate. He turned our franchise around. He gave us real legitimacy.”