We tip-off with the NBA, and a night belonging to one of the greatest players in recent league history. Shaquille O'Neal helped the LA Lakers open the new millennium with three straight titles, and later dominated the paint as the Miami Heat won their first-ever championship. So it was only fitting that these two teams would be facing each other, as the side from South Beach honored the Gentle Giant with a ceremony to retire his jersey.
LA retired Shaq's jersey three years ago, and now it is Miami's turn to do the same. Former teammates and front office execs greeting the Big Diesel as he steps on the court, including Pat Riley, who made the trade moving O'Neal from the Lakers to the Heat in 2004.
The Big Aristotle's impact was almost immediate. He helped the franchise win its maiden Larry O'Brien Trophy during his second season in South Beach, and spent a total of four years in the Sunshine State. Shaq remains Miami's all-time leader in field goal percentage, and ranks third in franchise history in points per game.
The recent inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame would also have a chance to deliver another speech on this occasion. O'Neal thanked the Heat fans for their support, and expressed his appreciation to the club's ownership, his former coach Riley, and numerous ex-teammates.
As for the game itself, the home team trails until late in the third quarter. Justise Winslow goes coast-to-coast and gives Miami their first lead of the evening, on his way to collecting 23 points and 13 rebounds.
With under a minute left in the fourth Q, Winslow avoids getting called for a charge before missing the shot, but Hassan Whiteside tips in the loose ball. The former Sichuan Blue Whale with 23 and 13 as well. The Heat hang on to win by eight.
In other action, Kevin Durant scored 26 points and Klay Thompson added 23, as Golden State came from 16 down at halftim to beat Brooklyn for their sixth win in a row. Boston topped Indy for their fourth straight victory. Derrick Rose scored 19 points as New York put away Orlando. The Clippers put an end to San Antonio's five-game winning streak.