Thursday night marks another important night of former Los Angeles Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal, as he is having his No. 32 jersey retired by the Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena.
Coincidentally, or perhaps by design, the ceremony is taking place on the same night the Heat are hosting the Lakers, another team that retired O’Neal’s jersey in 2013.
O’Neal won three straight championships in Los Angeles alongside Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and many others, before being traded to the Heat in 2004.
He went on to win one more championship with the Heat alongside Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley in 2006 to give him four total championships in his 19-year NBA career.
Although all NBA Championships are sweet, O’Neal recently called his first one with Los Angeles in 2000 his favorite championship, via Mark Medina of the LA Daily News:
Shaq ranked his first NBA title with Lakers as his favorite
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) December 23, 2016
The Lakers went 67-15 that season which was good enough to earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference in the playoffs. Shaq also won his only Regular Season MVP Award.
After a tough series with the Sacramento Kings in the first round that the Lakers won 3-2, they had a little easier time with the Phoenix Suns in the second round, defeating them four games to one.
That set up a difficult matchup with the Portland Trailblazers in the Western Conference Finals. After Los Angeles took a commanding 3-1 lead in that series, they let Portland back in the series by losing the next two games.
The Lakers were able to hang on for a 89-84 victory in Game 7, sending O’Neal to his first Finals appearance in the Purple and Gold where they would take on Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers.
Los Angeles went on to win the series in six games for the franchise’s 12th championship, and O’Neal was named the Finals MVP, an honor he also earned each of the next two Finals.