Shaquille O’Neal proved to be a huge hit after landing in Miami, helping the Heat win their first NBA championship in 2006. But it appears his relationship with Pat Riley got off to a rocky start.
The Heat president took over the coaching reins in 2005, having brought in veterans such as O’Neal, Gary Payton, Jason Williams and Antoine Walker to complement a young Dwyane Wade. So managing their inflated egos was always going to be a difficult job.
Shaq and Payton were part of Ahmad Rashad’s NBA Inside Stuff 90s Reunion on Sunday night, one that featured a stellar cast of former NBA superstars. At one point, the host had to tell his Zoom guests they were getting out of control as the ex-Heat players would recall cursing Riley out and Shaq getting into a fight with the then-head coach.
“You know why I love G.P.?” O’Neal asked. “Because when I first got to Miami and Pat was calling all these plays and he was yelling at G.P. G.P. is like, ‘Man f**k that s**t man I’m throwing that motherf***** to Shaq, I don’t give a f**k what you say.”
“I had a fight with Pat Riley,” Shaq continued. “Gary Payton had to grab me from choking Pat Riley.
“You was going to choke him out too, boy,” Payton chimed in. “You should’ve choked him because I was going to choke him right after that.”
Of course, things worked out for the group in the end as they were crowned NBA champions after beating the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 Finals, with Shaq winning his fourth ring, Gary Payton his first and only, and Riley his eighth in total as a player, coach and executive.