The Miami Heat officially retired Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 32 jersey on Thursday night (Dec. 22), raising it into the rafters at American Airlines Arena in front of thousands of fans.
The ceremony took place during halftime of the team game against the Los Angeles Lakers, which they won 115-107.
Shaq rocked a blue-and-red suit and thanked family members, former teammates, and other members of the organization, as well as fans, while telling a number of stories.
Heat president Pat Riley also spoke, telling the story about calling the team’s owner and saying they had a chance at acquiring a “once-in-a-lifetime player”… who wears a size-22 sneaker.
Although Shaq said he was on the “downslide of his career,” Riley said the Heat wouldn’t have won its first title (2006) without him and said he “changed our franchise.”
Also during the ceremony, the Heat made a $50,000 donation to Shaq’s charity, Odessa Chambliss Quality of Life Fund; presented him with a framed replica jersey banner; and greeted him on the court with a smaller replica of the “Diesel Power” 18-wheeler that first delivered him to Heat fans in 2004.