Posted by Royce Young
MIAMI -- Both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade were teammates of Shaquille O'Neal. James for just one season in Cleveland ("win a ring for the King," remember?) and three and a half seasons in Miami, winning a title in 2006.
James and Wade were both asked about O'Neal, his career and his personality.
"As a teammate, I'm always appreciate of being able to play with one of the all-time greats," Wade said. "Humbled and totally honored to have been a teammate. As a fan, just seeing the dominance of what he did will never be forgotten."
In Cleveland, the Cavaliers didn't finish with the promise Shaq made to win a ring, but James acknowledged that O'Neal was someone that he definitely loved being around. But he made it a point to say that while O'Neal was an incredible player, what he did for the game off it was nearly as impressive.
"What he was able to do for this league not just on the court but off the court," James said. "I think he's probably one of the only big men to play this game that was able to be marketable off the court. He sold shoes, he did movies..." Wade interrupted right there and said, "Don't forget rap." Seriously, don't forget his rapping.
"His personality is definitely something I gravitated towards," James said.
That personality was often a bit controversial as O'Neal had no fear of calling players out or talking about other teams. But Wade called O'Neal a "fun-loving" guy and someone that made the locker room a great place to be.
"One thing about Shaq is he did it the way he wanted to do it," Wade said. "At the end of the day, he had fun with the game. He did it the way he wanted to do it for 19 years. Not many people can say that. He said what he wanted to say, he did what he wanted to do. Not many guys can say that.
"He enjoyed his time in the NBA."
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was on the Miami staff for a couple seasons while O'Neal was in South Beach.
"First thing that came to my mind was the first time I saw him play in the NBA. I remember watching that game when he dove for the ball on the baseline," Spoelstra said. "He's been tremendous for the sport. Obviously done amazing things on the basketball court and been a champion but also he's opened up a different world for the athletes to take advantage of in marketing opportunities."
Dirk Nowitzki obviously competed against O'Neal for 13 seasons and echoed his respect for the big man.
"I mean we're going to miss him. He's been great not only on the court but off the floor. He's one of the funniest characters. I wish him the best."
Said Shawn Marion, who probably put it best: "He was a big ass kid."