EXCLUSIVE: Shaq Delivers Bold Statement on Miami Heat, Pat Riley

Shaquille O'Neal

Getty Former NBA player Shaquille O'Neal attends the unveiling of the Shaq Courts at the Doolittle Complex donated by Icy Hot and the Shaquille O'Neal Foundation in partnership with the city of Las Vegas on October 23, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Shaquille O’Neal, arguably the most legendary big man to ever play the game, and host of Inside the NBA, was discussing how the Nets and Lakers were struggling this season because they’re not at “full strength,” a statement swiftly checked by former Miami Heat legend, Dwyane Wade, who regularly contributes to TNT’s coverage.

Wade pointed out that Miami’s been riddled with injuries but made their way to the No.1 spot in the Eastern Conference, to which Shaq had no answer. But in an exclusive interview with Heavy, Shaq expanded his thoughts on the Heat, along with their chances of making it to the Finals.

The latest Heat news straight to your inbox! Join the Heavy on Heat newsletter here!

Shaq played for the Heat between 2004 and 2008, and alongside Wade, helped the franchise win the NBA Championship in 2006. However, he doesn’t see Miami bringing home the title in 2022, or even making it to the Finals.

“Make the NBA finals? That’s a tough one,” Shaq told Heavy. “I think the Heat will make the playoffs and have a good little run but this isn’t their year. They’re due for one… It’ll come.”

After a tough loss on the road to the Boston Celtics on Monday, January 31, the Heat (32-19) only had 10 available players cleared to play, Miami has fallen to the No.2 spot in the East, just one game behind the Chicago Bulls.

Shaq Spoke About His Current Relationship With Heat President Pat Riley

Countless stories have been told about the fiery relationship between Shaq and Pat Riley, who served as the team’s head coach between 1995-2003 and again from 2005-2008. In fact, the 15-time All-Star detailed a confrontation with Riley in his 2011 memoir, Shaq Uncut: My Story:

I start taking a couple of steps towards Pat. Udonis Haslem steps in and I shove him out of the way. Then Zo tries to grab me. I threw him aside like he was a rag doll. Now it’s me and Riley face-to-face, jaw to jaw. I’m poking him in the chest and he keeps slapping my finger away and it’s getting nasty. Noisy, too. He’s yelling ‘(expletive!)’ and I’m yelling back, ‘No, (expletive!)

Haslem told this story from his point of view in an October interview with GQ :

The fight was me trying to hold Shaq back and he threw me like a sack of potato chips. I’m trying to save Pat’s old a** and Shaq grabbed me and swung me. He threw me down like that and I was just trying to stop him. Imagine if he really wanted a piece of me? I would’ve had to tase him!

Here’s the thing about Riley, angry outbursts don’t phase him because he loves passionate players. Riley has detailed screaming matches with current Heat star Jimmy Butler, and when Shaq’s book came out, he didn’t harbor any ill-will toward his former player.

“We get mad when we lose,” Riley, said at the time, per NBC Miami. “He does, I do, we all do. We don’t take it well, so some things happen occasionally.”

As for Shaq’s relationship with “The Godfather” now, it’s all love. “Pat is that guy you know is always there for you,” Shaq told Heavy. “He’s a father figure to everyone within the Heat organization and almost the league as a whole. I have a good relationship with Pat but I need to see him more. Maybe I will invite him to Shaq’s Fun House in LA this year!”

With a New Book Coming Out, ‘The Big Man’ Podcast, ‘Inside the NBA, DJ Diesel Gigs, et al. — How Does Shaq Manage It All?

As Shaq mentioned, he’s hosting one of the biggest events in Los Angeles during Super Bowl weekend, Shaq’s Fun House, during which he’ll also perform as DJ Diesel. The 49-year-old multi-hyphenate also has a new cookbook coming out in April, runs the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, hosts The Big Man podcast while remaining a permanent fixture on Inside the NBA — how does he do it all?

It takes a village.

“I have a great team,” Shaq told Heavy. “I surround myself with the best. I am aware I take on a lot and need help getting it all done. It’s all about elevating yourself and progressing as much as possible while accomplishing more and more.”

Shaq mentioned he’s running a raffle for “one lucky fan” to be hired as his assistant over Super Bowl weekend, and we asked what kind of qualities the 7-foot-1 NBA legend looks for in an assistant.

“My schedule is crazy… I need help managing it. You need to be organized, innovative, and ready to roll with the punches.” However, for Shaq’s Fun House, “I need to move around the Fun House with ease and still make it on time for my DJ set. I want to ride the Ferris Wheel then grab some Papa Johns after.”

READ NEXT: Heat Forward Shuts Down Reporter’s Compliments: ‘I Don’t Care’