Pat Riley Opening Statement:
I feel absolutely blessed to be the President of the Miami HEAT. I want to let Shaquille (ONeal) and Shaunie (ONeal) know that Micky Arison, who is not here today, and his wife are in Europe at a board meeting trying to raise the funds for what it is going to cost to pay him. He just wants to welcome Shaq and Shaunie to the HEAT Family. Players like Shaquille dont come along but once in a generation or once in a lifetime. I believe that until you change the things you look at, the things you look at will never change. Sometimes that is true, but as far as Ive been concerned as a person in basketball, I have never and I will never change the way I look at one thing and that is what it takes to put together a team that has a chance to win a championship. I can only make an example of when I was in junior high school, in my first experience in competitive basketball. I was a pretty good player, but I got beat by a team that had a very talented big man. When I was in high school my team had the best record in New York State. I went to the Class A finals; we ended up getting beat by the team who had the best, most talented big center in the state. When I was in college we were the number one rated team in America and we ended up going to the NCAA finals and we got beat by a team with the most dominate center in college basketball that year. When I went to the Rockets, all we ever did was lose, then all of a sudden we went to the playoffs when we drafted one of the most dominant centers, Elvin Hayes, to come along in a long time in the NBA. When I went to the Lakers and played for them in 1970, 71 and 72, we ended up winning the championship because we had Wilt Chamberlain. When I coached we ended up winning four championships in the 80s because we had a great team, but also had the most dominate center in the NBA, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. It was the same story when I went to New York and the same story when I came here to Miami. I have always been in the same pursuit of that particular player that I know will give us the chance to wear a ring one day. I just want to turn it over because I believe that we have definitely been blessed. Somehow he found his way down here to Miami, he is the most talented, most dominate player in the world. I want to welcome Shaquille ONeal.
Shaquille ONeal Opening Statement:
I want to thank everyone for coming out today. I am glad that I am here for one reason only, when I was playing with the Lakers I was tired of hearing Coach (Stan) Van Gundy yelling, three seconds, three seconds, get him out of the lane, three seconds. So now I get to hear Coach Van Gundy yell, they are fouling him, they are fouling him. I just want to thank Pat Riley, Coach Van Gundy and the owner for giving me a chance and the people and media of Miami for welcoming me. When I was looking for cities to come to, Miami was one of my choices for one reason and one reason only, because they didnt have a lot of talent on their team, but they had a great team. I saw that they played good together and they got along together. I saw that they were just a great team and I just wanted to be part of a team, because I know in basketball you cant do it by yourself, no matter how great you are or no matter how great you think you are. You need a good team, so I wanted to come to a young and energetic team. I understand that Eddie (Jones) and I are the oldest of the bunch, but this is a classic Shaquille ONeal quote so write it down, underline it and memorize it. When you put a bunch of old lions with young lions, the old lion will do one of two things, run away and be old or be young like the young lions. I hope that makes sense. What I am trying to say is that I know Eddie and I are 32 and 31, but we have a lot of young guys and I think that we are going to do well. Im very excited. I am going to come out here and play hard. I just bought a house on the beach and my wife likes me to walk around naked on the beach, so I am going to be in very, very top physical shape. As a matter of fact, my good friend Mark Mastrov, CEO and President of 24 Hour Fitness, is bringing 24 Hour Fitness to Miami. We want you all to get in shape and look as good as me when training camp comes because I will be walking naked on the beach, so if you take pictures of me naked on the beach, dont sell them to The Enquirer unless I get 15 percent. Again, thank you all for coming out and I look forward to it. It was a great welcome today. When I was walking up the red carpet I turned around and it made me feel like when we won championships in Los Angeles. People came out and showed their love; hopefully we can get that done. I am glad to be here. I know you guys are going to start talking about whose team it is, and I am going to let you know its Dwyane Wades team. He is that type of guard who can lead us and do good things. I am just his big brother and I am just here to back him up. This is Dwyane Wades team and I dont want to hear any questions this year about whose team it is. I am telling you now, it is Dwyane Wades team, he is the point guard. Eddie is his medium size brother and I am his big brother and we are going to do this. I appreciate you guys for coming, thank you.
Question and Answer with Shaquille ONeal:
What type of pressure is there now that you are the star on the Miami HEAT?
I dont believe in pressure, pressure is when you dont know where your next meal is going to come from. This is a great city to be in. You guys already had a great team, just a great team. Dwyane Wade showed me some things and the team showed me some things. A couple shots or a couple of calls going their way could have been the difference in making it to the Eastern Conference Championship. I just think they are one or two pieces away. We got a big piece here now and thats what we want to do. The same effect we had outside here today, thats the effect we want to have in June, but I want to do it on the beach and I want to wear a thong.
What would you say to those, at age 32, that think perhaps your best years are behind you?
I think, as I got older, I have gotten better. I came in at 285 lbs, one or two percent body fat and always got tired out. The older I have got, the more knowledge I have obtained and have just gotten better. Of course I am old, but this is another classic Shaquille ONeal quote: Im like toilet paper, toothpaste, and certain amenities, Im proven to be good and useful. So yes, I am 32 and getting older, but Ive still got five, six, seven, eight, nine, or 10 more years left. If you look at the history of the game, the older guys have always dominated the sport. The older guys have always won the championships. I think the last young great guy to win a championship was Magic Johnson, but he had a lot of great old players on his team.
The treatment that you received outside is usually reserved for the King of Spain or the Pope, were you surprised with the proclamations, the key to the city, and the red carpet?
I was very surprised. Actually when I was rolling up I was telling my wife that I felt like the President, dom dom da dom it was great, I really didnt expect all of this. Like I said, Im coming back as mean as ever, excited as ever, we have a great team and I am looking forward to it. I look forward to some great games, great battles and doing what we are supposed to do.
What were your options and why did you choose Miami?
There were a lot of options, but when it came down to the thick of things, Miami was the number one, number two options. I saw a guy outside of my window one night with some black on. He knocked on my window and said, Shaq, come to Miami. When I looked, it was Coach (Pat) Riley. He broke into my development, stole a patrol car and found my house and knocked on the window. I knew that Miami was the place that I wanted to be because of the team. I had a lot of options, but when it comes to going to a good team, there were only one or two teams out there. I think Miami is the best fit for me. They have a lot of young, energetic hungry guys. This is a young, energetic beautiful city.
When you talked with Dwyane Wade, what did you say?
I told Dwyane, lets just get it going. John Wooden, when I first met him, I was with Coach Del Brown, he told me, Shaquille, obviously you are a great player, but being great isnt about putting it between your legs, scoring 50 or 60 points. Being great is how you help your other teammates to strive. That is what being great is about. I took that; I have always been the type of big man that keeps my guys along. Dwyane had it pretty hard last year because he was a rookie and they started seeing his game. Now its going to open up, its going to open up more room for him. I expect him to be the number one or number two guard in the Eastern Conference because last year he impressed me. I usually dont get impressed by a guard, but he impressed me. Not because of the dunking and all of the stuff that he did, but because he still kept his guys involved and he still did what he did.
When you think about the ticket sales, the jerseys, nightclubs setting aside tables for you, chefs ready to make your favorite dish, getting keys to the city, and your impact on this area, how would you characterize it?
That has nothing to do with basketball. Thats just because I am sexy. I get all of that treatment because I am sexy. Its fun, Im glad that I am welcomed by the city and its going to be a great time here.
Has there been any discussion about a contract extension?
I have been very, very professional throughout my career. I havent spoken with Pat Riley once about an extension. I am just going to come out here and play hard, if I deserve it, I will get it, if not, I will just move on. I have been blessed throughout my life and throughout my NBA career. I am just coming here to bring a championship to this city and I wont even mention money one time, well maybe I will mention it once, but I will not mention it twice.
How do you plan on being a mentor to Dwyane Wade on and off the court and do you think we will see a meaner side to you out here in the Eastern Conference?
Yes, you will see a meaner side. I am not going to come in here and say to do this and do that. It is obvious that the kid can play. If he needs my advice, I will tell it to him. He has a back up on the floor, if they foul him hard, they are going to get fouled hard on the next play down. I am just going to be his big brother. I am not the type to say to do this and do that. I do not know what it takes to become a great guard, I know what it takes to become a great team player and he already has that quality. It is his team, throughout the history of the game, teams have always belonged to guards. I have never played with a special guard that is special and he is a special guard. The team is his, I am just here to do my part, which is to rebound, dominate, play good defense and win. The kid can play, the kid can play.
Last week in Los Angeles, (Lakers General Manager) Mitch (Kupchak) said that they offered you an extension that would have made you the highest paid player in the NBA. Kobe (Bryant) said that he could have played with you; he wanted to play with you. You said you came here because you wanted to be part of a team. Can you clear up the discrepancy of the stories from both coasts?
I really dont like to talk about numbers, because none of us should be complaining about numbers. They did make me an offer, but its never about the money, its all about being on a team. Being on a team and doing the right thing. I know how the game is supposed to be played and I know what is supposed to be going on because when it was done the right way we stormed through the league three times in a row. But when everything started to shift a little bit, things got topsy-turvy. I just wanted to be part of a team; its never about money. I invested in Google a long time ago.
I know you kept your home in Orlando since you were drafted, so how does it feel to return to Florida?
It feels good. Believe it or not, I have always wanted to get a house down in this area on the water, but I have never really had the chance. Now I have a chance to get a house on the water and walk naked on the beach. Remember if you take any pictures, I get 20 percent.
The city has a lot of different cultures and aspects to it, can you talk about the city that you are becoming a member of, what you like about it so far and what you are looking forward to?
I have always known it was a beautiful city. People here are beautiful and there is a lot of culture here. It is a great young energized city. Im glad to be a part of it and help to add more energy into the city. I am glad I am here and youll have no regrets. Get your tickets now. Buy cable now. Get your jerseys now. Pull your boats up to the docking stations now. Bring your Sea-Doos now. If you cant afford a Sea-Doo, get a raft. If you cant afford a raft, go to Wal-Mart and get the blow-up raft like I have at my house. You need to come because it is going to be very, very exciting. When we used to come here and play, it was very exciting. I know this is a very, very fun city and Im glad to be here and thank you for all of the gifts today.
I know how much you love music, can you talk about that?
When I met Phil (Jackson), he told me, I have seen your movies and heard your music. You do a pretty good job, but we need you to focus on basketball. I did six albums and seven movies, that was all fun. That was just me taking advantage of opportunities, but ever since I have met Phil, I have been very, very focused and I am still focused now. Music is there; I may do one or two things, but nothing serious. I come down here to take care of business, win a championship, play basketball and that is all that I come down here to do.
I want to welcome you to Miami and make you aware of a couple of things. The first year WQBA broadcasted the Miami Dolphins, we went to the Super Bowl, the first time WQBA broadcasted the Florida Marlins, we won the World Series, and this season is our first with the Miami HEAT, so maybe that is an omen.
They say that things work in threes and if I am correct we are number three. If we dont win, I am coming to see you.
I heard you practicing your Spanish outside; can you give us a couple of words for the Spanish speaking audience that is listening?
I dont really know much Spanish. Muchas gracias. Mamita linda. Dame besos. Feliz Navidad. Te amo Miami.
I know that you have given so much to the Los Angeles community, what are your plans to help the youth down here?
When I was in California they had a couple of mountains that were close to Los Angeles, so I told my people to drive some snow down to the place where we were. I opened my big mouth the other day and said that I am bringing snow to Miami, but there arent any mountains around here, so I have to go to my think tank. You will see me in the community a lot and you wont see me in the community a lot because a lot of the times I just do stuff because I want to do it. I want to feed homeless people on Thanksgiving and I am going to drive a big truck through certain neighborhoods to pass out good toys. I am one of the only athletes that sell good-looking shoes at a reasonable price. I was in Orlando one day and a lady came to me crying. I asked her what was wrong and she said, the shoes, they cost $115. So I had to kind of sit back and say to myself, if I ask my father to buy me a pair of shoes that cost $115, he would probably punch me. What I decided to do was to make shoes at a reasonable price and bring them down to a price range that everybody could afford. I have been doing that now for about five or six years. You are going to see me in the community a lot because my parents always taught me to give back. You will all see Shaq-A-Clause and Shaq-A-Bunny.
Given the way things ended in Los Angeles, can you tell us how motivated, angry and inspired you are to either reprove or remind people how good you are?
Im not angry, but I am very, very motivated. When I met with Pat Riley, he wanted me to come down here and do one thing and that was to take care of business and I assured him that I would do that. The people that know me, know what time it is and know what the diesel is down here to do. Period. P-U-R-E-U-D. Period.
How was the grand entrance on the 18-wheeler?
I think that was Coach Van Gundys idea. Diesel and the diesel truck. They gave me a little water gun, it was hot out there, and I wanted to wet some of the people. It was a beautiful entrance. I knew we were having a press conference today, but I figured it was just going to be all of the media. I got the police escort. By the way, I would like to thank the Miami Police Department, they do a beautiful job. We got the police escort, and when we made the right turn around the corner, I saw a lot of people. I was saying to myself, I got my contract extension already? All right, this is nice. It was great and fun.
With everything that has happened in Los Angeles, do you feel as though a big burden has been lifted off of your shoulders?
I wouldnt say that it was a big burden, but its a good start for me. This is a young energetic city, Im glad to be here and to add to the excitement. We are looking to do good things for this franchise and I am glad to be a part of that.
Should we assume that you are going to rededicate yourself and be the leaner, meaner diesel that you were back with the Orlando Magic?
That would be correct young man. That would be 1,000 percent correct buddy. Tough guy. Do you want a piece of me? Like I said, I am coming in here in top physical condition. I urge everybody in Miami to join me. We are going to bring 24-hour fitness here, 30, 40 of them. You dont get a discount just because I get one. There is a young, energetic, good team here. These guys are good. When we came here last year, they gave us a run for our money. They are a good team and during the playoffs you saw what they did. They were a few pieces away. The big piece is here now. I now what it takes, Coach Riley knows what it takes, Coach Van Gundy has a lot of knowledge, he knows what it takes and I am just here to help add to that knowledge of the guys and it is going to be fun.
Do you see anybody in the Eastern Conference that can shut you down?
I dont see anybody, in any conference that can shut me down. Any conference, anywhere in the world.
What message would you give your former Laker teammates that you left behind?
None. I was raised very well. I was raised by a drill sergeant and my mother. They taught me to be very, very professional. Ill say some things, but this isnt the time to say it. Im going to keep it for the city of Miami, Miami PD, Miami people, and Miami HEAT coaches. I dont have anything to say. I have spoken with Coach Riley and Coach Van Gundy, and they already do a beautiful job of recruiting. They know whatever help they need from me to bring some more pieces here, that they can get that out because I was the General Manager of the last team I played for.
There was a report today that Karl Malone would like to join you here in Miami, would you welcome that?
I would welcome anybody. People know that I am going to go out, give 100 percent and play hard. Whoever wants to come, they should come. Bryon Russell, Robert Horry, Tyronn Lue, whoever wants to come, they can come. Anybody else you want me to mention Coach? We cant tamper.
What animal do you resemble on the court?
You can ask my wife that. I would probably be a lion, tiger, or bear, oh my. I would say an eagle because I like to just get out by myself, just ride and just start thinking. I would say an eagle because it is well respected. It can be nice or they can be killers.
How much work are you doing on your masters degree?
I put a lot into it. I am working on my Masters currently at the University of Phoenix. I attend classes most of the time, but a lot of stuff is done through correspondence studying. I want to get my Masters in Criminal Justice. When I am done playing, I plan on being the Chief of Police somewhere. Either Miami or Orlando, I dont know yet. When I am done, I plan on going into law enforcement, F.B.I., A.T.F, or Chief of Police. I just want to do it the right way, like everybody else rather than be a famous figurehead that gets a job because he is a famous basketball player. I want to go to the police academy. I want to actually go out and make a couple of arrests and I actually want to go undercover. I want to get my Masters in Criminal Justice, so hopefully when I am done playing I can pursue my law enforcement career.
Have you thought about going back and playing for the first time in the Staples Center and what your feelings are going to be like?
No. Im the type that doesnt really think too far ahead. Im sure the week that we play them, Im going to think about it a little bit more. Right now I am just working hard and coming back in the best shape ever. All I am thinking about is just coming here, adapting to the city and taking care of business.
The whole deal with your toe, how is it?
Would you like to kiss it? Just checking.
It is surgically repaired, but does it hinder you in any way?
No, not at all. He took everything out. I dont know what he took out, but he took everything out. I have no pain at all, my feet are fine. Everything is fine, including my butt, would you like to see it? You want to see how fine I am tough guy?