Pat Riley says Shaq was bigger acquisition than the ‘Big 3’
The trend continued Friday, when Riley shared his thoughts looking back into Shaquille O’Neal‘s career, as part of the Naismith Hall of Fame class that will be inducted next Friday.
“I’ll say this, and I mean this,” Riley told Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel, “Shaq’s acquisition was bigger than any acquisition that we ever made, including the Big Three.”
Bigger than the dual arrival of Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning, bigger than the coalition of three of the top-10 players in the league — Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. Bigger than the two championships they obtained in their four seasons together.
Despite the ‘Big Three,’ despite one of the most thrilling rivalries of the 90s against the New York Knicks, Riley insists Shaq was the piece that changed it all.
“Zo was big,” Riley said. “But getting Shaquille changed everything for our franchise.”
“The seminal moment to really make us really, really legitimate. He turned our franchise around. He gave us real legitimacy.”
Part of Riley’s success as a coach and as an executive has come from Riley’s ability to see past what’s right in front of him. He has a visionary-like ability to project and see the bigger picture.
As crazy as it sounds, Riley is a 100 percent spot-on. The Heat wouldn’t have been able to get James and Bosh to join Wade if it wasn’t for the fact that it was an established franchise that had won a championship four years prior.
Back in 2006, Wade was growing into a star and Shaq was that player to propel him there. He was the right player to fit a feared duo that ended up flipping the script on the Dallas Mavericks, winning their last four games en-route to the team’s first championship.
The relationship between Riley and O’Neal ended abruptly and was later repaired. Despite prior conflicts, Riley seemed very appreciative of what the big man had done for the franchise.
O’Neal was no longer the stat-stuffer he was in Orlando and Los Angeles, but still averaged 19.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks as a member of the Heat.
“When (Shaq) wanted to dominate a game and have an impact on winner, there was no better,” said Riley.