MIAMI, Dec. 26 (UPI) -- It's hard to impress Shaquille O'Neal.
But on a night when his mom road into AmericanAirlines Arena on a diesel-powered miniature semi-truck, O'Neal revealed how Pat Riley once did exactly that.
O'Neal, who had his Miami Heat jersey retired last week, said that when he was a member of the Heat, Riley pulled out all of the stops for motivation.
"It was different," O'Neal said about the 2006 Heat team. "We had a bunch of misfits on the team, I can say that. We had a bunch of guys that were respectively 'the man' on their team once in their career. I think D-Wade [Dwyane Wade], Pat and myself, we had to keep everyone together. The best thing Pat did was have practice at 12 o'clock. Those guys used to go out every night on the beach. We just stuck together. I was actually very scared when we went down 0-2 to Dallas [Mavericks], but Pat gives those Hoosier-type motivational speeches."
"He almost killed himself talking to us one time. He came in and came with a piece of paper and said something like, 'the world's record holder for holding your breath is four minutes'. He did it for like eight minutes and I asked him if he was alright and he came up and almost died that day. It was a fun year. I finally watched the championship DVD and it brought back a lot of memories."
Riley, now the Heat president, confirmed the story.
"I stuck my head in a bucket of ice as long as I could," Riley said. "I could hear everybody yelling. Finally, I took my head out of the ice bucket and I said, 'if winning means anything to you, it will mean as much as you taking your last breath.' I stood up and I fainted. I didn't faint, but Zo caught me. I didn't realize my brain was frozen. There were things like that I would do occasionally. It's okay to get their attention."
The 15-time All-Star and 1999 NBA MVP won four NBA championships, three with the Lakers and in 2005 with the Heat. O'Neal averaged 19.6 points and 9.1 rebounds in four seasons with the Heat. In 2006, he averaged 18.4 points and 9.8 rebounds in the playoffs. The Hall of Famer averaged 13.7 points and 10.2 rebounds in the 2006 NBA Finals against the Mavericks.
The Heat edged the Los Angeles Lakers 115-107 Thursday. 'Diesel' provided some much-needed fuel for the home team.
"I think it was [an energy boost]," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "First of all, what incredible class Shaq displayed. He's one of the very best any of us have ever seen. He absolutely engaged the entire crowd. It was like going down memory lane, it felt like 2006 in the arena. Our young players were sitting there eyes wide open and they saw a vision of what we're trying to build and what the arena is like when you have a legitimate championship contending team. It was a special presentation. It definitely had an effect on our players."