Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images

Heat celebrate Shaq’s impact ahead of jersey retirement

2 Comments

MIAMI (AP) — Dwyane Wade still remembers when he initially heard the rumor that Shaquille O’Neal was coming to the Miami Heat, and how his first reaction was disbelief.

And then came the 18-wheeler that carried O’Neal to his arrival in Miami, as he happily fired a squirt gun at throngs of screaming fans.

“We had a vision to be a championship team,” Wade told The Associated Press on Wednesday, “but it wasn’t for real for real until Big Fella came and pulled up on that truck.”

A grand celebration was had on that day in July 2004, the franchise’s first of three NBA championships followed two years later, and the Heat will give O’Neal their version of an ultimate thank-you on Thursday night when they raise his No. 32 banner to the rafters. He will be the third Heat player to get such an honor, joining only Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway.

“I said `I promise I’m going to bring a championship here,”‘ O’Neal said. “And we did.”

Fittingly, the Heat will fete O’Neal at halftime of a game against the Los Angeles Lakers – who have also retired his number.

“He changed the direction of our team,” Heat President Pat Riley said. “He brought an absolute legitimacy to our franchise. And when we won the championship I think it sort of took us over the top. He deserves to be honored by having his number hanging from the rafters. It’s not just out of respect. It’s because of what he did for us.”

The NBA is permitting a longer-than-usual halftime for the ceremony, in which Riley and O’Neal will be among the speakers. O’Neal won his first three titles with the Lakers, then got his fourth in Miami to make good on the promise he made when he stepped out of that truck to deliver a championship to Heat fans.

And, in a nod to that infamous arrival, the Heat will have an 18-wheeler bearing the “Diesel Power” artwork that greeted him 12 years ago at the arena.

“Big Fella in Miami changed everything,” said Wade, who’s now with the Chicago Bulls but will one day have his jersey hanging next to O’Neal’s in Miami. “Changed everything for everyone.”

O’Neal appeared in 205 regular-season games over parts of four seasons with Miami, averaging 19.6 points and 9.1 rebounds. But his impact stretched well beyond stats; he helped turn Heat games into events, and did so while not impeding Wade’s rapid rise to superstardom.

There were some well-documented troubles along the way. When Stan Van Gundy stepped down as coach in 2005, part of that decision was believed to be related to his relationship with O’Neal. And when the Heat traded him to Phoenix in 2008, O’Neal blasted Miami’s personnel – including guard Chris Quinn – along with the team’s medical and athletic training staffs.

Quinn is now an assistant coach with the Heat. And O’Neal’s jersey banner will sway next to one for Ron Culp, a revered figure in Heat history and the team’s athletic trainer from 1988 through 2008.

“It was not personal,” Riley said. “Shaq was impeccable with his word. He came down here and said `We’re gonna win a title, Coach.’ And we won a title. … No hard feelings, at all. I’m an Irishman and I forgive.”

So with that, all is forgotten, all is forgiven.

“Next to Dwyane, I’d have to say he’s probably the best teammate I ever had,” Heat captain Udonis Haslem said. “Just showing us how this NBA life works, how you can have fun and enjoy it but stay out of trouble and win games. He put so much confidence in his teammates. He really was the great Shaquille O’Neal.”

Haslem was a second-year undrafted player when O’Neal arrived, and remembers hearing that an undersized power forward like himself wasn’t the sort that would work well with a still-dominant center.

O’Neal let Haslem know right away to ignore such talk. Haslem wound up playing a huge role in Miami’s 2006 NBA Finals victory, and is still so revered by O’Neal that he wants him to join in the ovations from the crowd on Thursday night.

“The first thing when I got with Big Fella, he said, `I’ve been watching you, I like your work ethic and I can win with you,”‘ Haslem said. “A player like that has confidence in you, how could I ever question that?”

Lakers fan hits halfcourt shot to win $100,000 (VIDEO)

Twitter
1 Comment

The Los Angeles Lakers are having a pretty good January.

The team has a losing record overall but is 6-5 in 2018, despite the noise from the Ball family and the need for public confidence for Luke Walton as coach.

Still, I’m not sure they’re having as good a time as the guy who won $100,000 by banking in a halfcourt shot on Sunday.

Via Twitter:

The fan’s name is apparently Suni Strong, and he’s from Palmdale. He played high school basketball, works at Space-X, and was on a canceled A&E show about bounty hunting.

Seriously.

Via OC Register:

“When I first walked in I said have my check ready,” he said. “I knew I was going to make it. I had to.”

Asked if he called “bank,” Strong replied, “Why would I do that? I called money.”

That’s some serious scratch.

Spencer Dinwiddie hits game-winner for Nets over former team (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Spencer Dinwiddie was once a member of the Detroit Pistons. They traded him to the Chicago Bulls back in 2016 for Cameron Bairstow, and the Bulls promptly waived him less than a month later. That same day, Bairstow was waived by the Pistons.

On Sunday, Dinwiddie got his revenge on Detroit by ending their matinee matchup with a step-through jumper that two Pistons failed to defend.

The play came with 4.7 seconds left and the Brooklyn Nets trailing, 100-99. Dinwiddie ran across the far side of the floor to receive the ball from the sideline, then to the near elbow before putting on a series of moves to get his shot off.

The play gave Detroit just 0.09 seconds left, and they couldn’t get an attempt off.

Brooklyn beat the Pistons, 101-100.

Meanwhile, Dinwiddie continues to have the best season of his career. He’s averaging 13.2 points, 6.5 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per-game, all career-highs. He’s also boosted his VORP to 1.1, another personal best.

Enes Kanter’s teammate told him “You’re about to get 50 dropped on you” after LeBron troll

Getty
5 Comments

Enes Kanter likes to inject himself in situations he doesn’t belong in.

The New York Knicks forward likes to take aim at the biggest star in the game, LeBron James, and has said in the past that he would fight LeBron if he had to.

Some previous comments from LeBron riled up members of the Knicks organization, and there’s been animosity between the two sides ever since.

So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when Kanter had something to say on Twitter about his former team, the Oklahoma City Thunder, dropping 148 points during a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Saturday. Heck, even former Cavaliers coach David Blatt jumped in on that one, albeit immediately before his own team got 151 scored on them.

Kanter took to Twitter, using LeBron’s own catchphrase against him:

Of course, that’s probably not the best idea. Kanter is a role player and LeBron is one of the best who ever played. Even if the Cavaliers are stinking it up lately, you can’t go after the King like that. You just might miss.

Via ESPN:

“One texted [teammate] me just to say — I’m not going to say who — but he texted me ‘You’re about to get 50 dropped on you, boy.'” Kanter said before Sunday’s matinee against the Los Angeles Lakers. “I responded something back, but I’m not going to say what it is.”

Kanter added that he’s just “having fun” and wanting to put “a smile on people’s face” with his constant prodding.

We’ll see if he ends up smiling the next time Cleveland and New York meet on April 9 at MSG.

David Blatt’s troll on the Cavaliers backfires when opponent scores 151 (VIDEO)

Getty
10 Comments

David Blatt, perhaps sensing his time to pounce as rumors swirl around Tyronn Lue’s departure, decided to troll the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. It did not go so well.

Blatt, who was fired from the head coaching spot in Cleveland in 2015, now heads Darüşşafaka S.K. in the Turkish Super League.

Blatt was also coaching Team Europe vs. Team Asia in the Turkish BSL All-Star Game on Sunday. During the game Blatt joked during a TV interview that he was just hoping his team didn’t give up as many points as the Cavaliers did to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday. That game ended with a score of 148-124.

Via Twitter:

So what happened to Blatt’s Team Europe in the All-Star Game?

According to Erik Gundersen over at LeBron Wire, Team Europe promptly got rolled on with a tally of … 151 points.

The final total in the Turkish All-Star matchup was 151-142 in favor of Team Asia.

Oops.