In addition to having a statue erected outside the Lakers’ Staples Center, the Miami Heat is retiring Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey this week.
After bringing the Heat a championship in 2004, the team pays tribute to Shaq Diesel by raising his No. 32 jersey into the rafters on Thursday (Dec. 22), making him just the third Heat player bestowed with the honor, following Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway.
Ironically, the Heat will be retiring O’Neal’s jersey at halftime of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers, whom he left to sign with Miami and who also have retired his number.
“He changed the direction of our team,” Heat president Pat Riley said. “He brought an absolute legitimacy to our franchise. And when we won the championship, I think it sort of took us over the top. He deserves to be honored by having his number hanging from the rafters. It’s not just out of respect. It’s because of what he did for us.”
O’Neal won his first three titles with the Lakers, then got his fourth in Miami… making good on the promise he made to the city, when he first joined them.