The Los Angeles Lakers, led by head coach Phil Jackson and superstars Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, won three straight NBA titles from 2000-02, forming one of the most dominant dynasties in NBA history.
The trio remained intact through the 2004 season, despite the obvious difference in opinions and attitudes. After losing to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals, it appeared changes were imminent, and that ended up being the case.
Los Angeles decided to build their future around Bryant, not O’Neal, so one of the most dominant centers of all-time was traded to the Miami Heat in exchange for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, and a future first-round draft choice (who would turn into Jordan Farmar in the 2006 NBA Draft).
The man who acquired O’Neal was former Lakers head coach Pat Riley, who was the general manager of the Heat at the time. Riley is now the team president of the Heat and has made many acquisitions in that role including drafting Dwyane Wade, signing both LeBron James and Chris Bosh in free agency, as we as most recently signing center Hassan Whiteside to a max contract this offseason.
Despite all of those acquisitions, according to Dan Feldman of NBC Sports, Riley says O’Neal was the biggest acquisition the Heat have ever made:
“I’ll say this, and I mean this,” Riley says during a relaxed moment this past week, “Shaq’s acquisition was bigger than any acquisition that we ever made, including the Big Three.”
“The seminal moment,” Riley says, “to really make us really, really legitimate. He turned our franchise around. He gave us real legitimacy.”
In addition to his three championships with the Lakers, O’Neal won a championship with Miami in 2006. Wade was also a member of that team, which was coached by Riley.
Miami also won two more championships with Wade, James and Bosh as their nucleus when they won back-to-back titles in 2012-13.