The Miami Heat threw a public celebration for O'Neal, and titled it "Shaq in Black."
O'Neal made a grand entrance Tuesday at a rally welcoming him to
Miami. He arrived in a semi-tractor trailer with the words "Diesel
Power" on the side, emerged from the cab firing a plastic water
cannon at the crowd of several thousand, then followed a red carpet
up the steps to the Heat's arena.
Once at the top, he pledged that an even bigger celebration is
in the future.
"I'm going to bring a championship to Miami," O'Neal told the
fans. "I promise."
At a news conference that followed, O'Neal spoke little about
his differences with Kobe Bryant and Lakers management that
triggered the trade. But he said he appreciates the way he has been
embraced in Miami.
"I told my wife when I was rolling up, I felt like the
president," he said. O'Neal then hummed "Hail to the Chief."
The rally came six days after the Heat acquired the 11-time
All-Star in a trade that sent three starters to Los Angeles. Such
festivities might seem premature to some cities, but Miami loves
celebrities -- and winners.
Heat president Pat Riley remembers the sellout crowds the
attendance-challenged Florida Marlins drew for last year's World
Series, and he anticipates the same kind of box-office boost from
O'Neal, especially if he leads the Heat to their first NBA title.
"We have definitely been blessed," Riley said. "Somehow he
found his way down here to Miami -- the most talented, most dominant
player in the world."
The first game is still 3½ months away, but O'Neal already is
the most entertaining act in town, and he never went long without a
O'Neal returns to his roots: Shaq will play for the Heat as No. 32.
On buying a home in South Florida: "I will be walking naked
on the beach. If you take pictures of me naked on the beach, don't
sell them to the Enquirer unless I get 15 percent."
On being 32 years old: "I'm like toilet paper, toothpaste and
certain amenities -- I'm proven to be good. I've still got five,
six, seven, eight, nine, 10 years left."
On his weight: "I play my best ball at 345. I need my meat because I'm going to take a beating. If you put a guy in front of
me who eats salad and cucumber and baked chicken all day, I'll kill
O'Neal referred to himself as "the Millennium Goliath," but
even the world's most dominant player will need help transforming
the Heat into champions.
They've lost the entire front line from a team that went 42-40
last season and made an improbable run to the second round of the
playoffs. O'Neal offered to help Riley recruit free agents to fill
the roster openings created by the departure of center Brian Grant
and forwards Caron Butler and Lamar Odom to the Lakers.
And O'Neal is happy to join a team that still includes guard
Eddie Jones, Miami's top scorer the past four years, and guard
Dwyane Wade, a standout last season as a rookie.
"They could have easily been in the Eastern Conference
championships," O'Neal said. "They're one or two pieces away. And
you've got a big piece now."