Pat Riley: Shaq, not LeBron or Wade, was Heat’s biggest acquisition

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Pat Riley throwing shade at LeBron James after LeBron left the Heat? Why I never.

Oh, right.

Now, Dwyane Wade, who left for the Bulls, is getting similar treatment. The Heat president who’s totally not bitter called trading for Shaquille O’Neal in 2004 – not drafting Wade in 2003 or signing LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh in 2010 – the biggest move in franchise history.

Riley, via Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

“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.”

O’Neal spent three and a half seasons in Miami, reaching the conference finals, winning a title and getting swept in the first round. Though it wasn’t fully appreciated at the time, the younger Wade – not the more-renowned Shaq – led the Heat to that 2006 title.

Wade, the greatest player in franchise history, also helped Miami win titles in 2012 and 2013 with LeBron – who might wind up the greatest player in NBA history. LeBron led the Heat to those two titles and four Finals appearances in his four years with the franchise.

I guess there’s a case that Shaq gave the Heat credibility, but it’s not as if he signed in Miami. The Heat traded for him.

LeBron and Wade were better in Miami, won more in Miami and stayed longer in Miami.

I suspect the fact that they now play in Cleveland and Chicago drove Riley’s answer.