10 People who turned their back on the Miami Heat

Here are players, a coach, an analyst, and a general manager who we believe "turned their backs" on the Miami Heat organization -- some more than others.
Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers
Miami Heat v Cleveland Cavaliers / Jason Miller/GettyImages
2 of 10

2. Shaquille O’Neal

Shaquille O'neal
Miami Heat v Washington Wizards / G Fiume/GettyImages
  • ​​Years played with the Heat: (2004-2008)
  • Significance of his contribution: Serving as Dwyane Wade's sidekick on the 2006 championship squad and contributing to the Miami Heat's NBA supremacy between 2004 and 2006.

Following three successful championship wins with the Los Angeles Lakers, former center Shaquille O’Neal's strained partnership with teammate Kobe Bryant and growing tension within the Lakers organization prompted him to seek a trade in 2014, leading to him teaming up with emerging star Dwyane Wade. The Heat made a significant trade, acquiring O'Neal in exchange for Brian Grant, Lamar Odom, and Caron Butler.

This was regarded as one of the most remarkable deals in recent NBA history, primarily because Heat president Pat Riley managed to keep Wade, who had just completed an impressive rookie season. Shaq brought three Finals MVPs and two scoring titles to Miami, a team that had yet to reach the Finals and had only made it to the conference finals twice. 

Heat culture is widely recognized and praised as a model for other NBA teams. The franchise is revered due to its success and commitment to team-focused basketball and player growth Nevertheless, O'Neal expressed that the team needed to achieve consistent success to establish a strong organizational culture during his time there, which was only accomplished later on.

O'Neal's reputation for being obstinate stemmed from his impressive career achievements, so it came as no surprise when he resisted Miami's basketball operations standards. Since Shaq's arrival in 2004, the Heat made more Finals appearances and secured more playoff victories than any other NBA team.

In his first season with the Heat, O'Neal finished second in MVP voting. He averaged 23 points and 10 rebounds per game, leading the team to 59 wins and securing the number-one seed. Along with Wade, they propelled the struggling team to an NBA title in just two years, triumphing over the Dallas Mavericks in 2006. O’Neal posted impressive stats of 19.6 points, and 9.1 rebounds, ranking fifth in blocks, and ninth in total rebounds during this time. 

Although their partnership lasted only four years, the duo of Shaq and Wade, known as Flash and The Diesel, emerged as one of the most formidable pairs in the NBA, playing a crucial role in elevating the Heat to a championship-winning franchise.

Unfortunately, the Heat fell short in the Conference Finals, losing in seven games to the Detroit Pistons, who took advantage of Wade's injury. The following season, the Heat sought redemption against the Pistons, defeating them in a six-game series in the Conference Finals. They then went on to win another six-game series against the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals. 

Although O'Neal struggled with only 13 points per game, his mere presence on the court created opportunities for Wade, who averaged an impressive 35 points per game. O'Neal consistently drew double and triple teams, allowing Wade to find open shots time and time again.

Shaq's departure from the Heat was far from pleasant. Despite facing challenges with former head coach Pat Riley, O’Neal was eventually traded to the Phoenix Suns before the 2007 trade deadline. However, both parties reconciled, leading to the retirement of Shaq's jersey by the franchise. While he may have joined the Heat towards the end of his career, Diesel's impact was significant. Shaq played a crucial role in helping Miami secure their first championship title, and that will forever be engrained in history.