Shaquille O'Neal made such an indelible impression on the Miami Heat that he will be having his No. 32 retired by the franchise.
According to a press release on NBA.com, O'Neal's jersey retirement ceremony will happen at the beginning of the 2016-17 season. Heat president Pat Riley said in the statement O'Neal's importance to the franchise and NBA makes him a worthy addition to Miami's basketball canon:
Shaquille O’Neal is one of the truly elite players in the history of the game and one of the greatest players to ever wear a HEAT uniform. He took us to another level as a basketball franchise while leading us to our first NBA championship. Retiring his number in the rafters, along with HEAT greats Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, is something we are very proud of.
O'Neal joined the Heat prior to the 2004-05 season in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers. He spent three-and-a-half seasons in Miami, playing a key role in the franchise's 2006 NBA Finals victory over Dallas with 13.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.
In 205 career games with the Heat, O'Neal averaged 19.6 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.9 blocks per game and was named to three All-Star games.
This is a nice mending of the fences between Riley and O'Neal, who did not seem to get along during his time in Miami based on comments O'Neal made to NBA TV (per Ira Winderman of the Miami Sun-Sentinel) in November 2011:
As a leader, as a CEO, as an alpha-male, I just have problems with that, because the way I was taught by the great Phil Jackson, and it made me very successful, three Finals MVPs, dominated all the Finals, this is the way we did it.
And when I got there (to Miami), it was a different program. And my thing was, "I don’t think your program works." It may work for some people, but I’m just coming off my program, the program that was handed down and sometimes we had conflicts. In 2006, when he came in late, we didn’t have a conflict. But then, after that, we started having conflicts.
O'Neal's departure from Miami in 2008, when he was traded to Phoenix at midseason, may not have been full of conflicted emotions for either party, but his role in helping the franchise move into elite territory and take a backseat to Dwyane Wade can't be understated.
This will mark the second time O'Neal has his number retired by a franchise, previously receiving the honor from the Lakers in 2013. Given his value to both teams and importance as one of the best centers in NBA history, this is an appropriate way to honor a superstar for the Heat.