Shaq receives big welcome in Miami

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

MIAMI -- Several thousand fans were waiting Tuesday at the Miami Heat's arena when Shaquille O'Neal arrived in the cab of a semi-tractor, pulling a trailer with the words "Diesel Power" on the side.

O'Neal climbed out, used a plastic water cannon to douse fans and walked along a red carpet to the steps leading to the entrance of the arena, where he pledged that another celebration is in the Heat's future.

"Remember this -- I'm going to bring a championship to Miami," O'Neal said. "I promise."

The Heat held the rally to welcome O'Neal six days after acquiring him in a trade that sent three starters to the Los Angeles Lakers.

In a 10-minute ceremony, O'Neal received keys to both the city of Miami and Miami-Dade County from Mayors Manny Diaz and Alex Penelas, respectively.

Penelas, who is more than a foot shorter than the 7-foot-1 O'Neal, stood on a chair so they were eye-to-eye during the presentation.

At a news conference inside the arena that followed, O'Neal said he enjoyed his arrival.

"I told my wife when I was rolling up, I felt like the president," he said. O'Neal then hummed "Hail to the Chief."

After differences with Kobe Bryant and Lakers management led to the trade, O'Neal said he appreciates the way he has been embraced by the city of Miami.

"That has nothing to do with basketball," he said. "That's just because I'm sexy."

O'Neal said he looks forward to helping Heat president Pat Riley recruit free agents to fill the roster spots still open, ones vacated by Miami sending center Brian Grant and forwards Caron Butler and Lamar Odom to the Lakers in exchange for the 11-time NBA All-Star.

Over 12 seasons, O'Neal has averaged 27.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks. He was attracted to the Heat in large part because of young Dwyane Wade, and was impressed bythe Heat's surprising run to the Eastern Conference semifinals last season.

"They didn't have a lot of talent on their team, but they had a great team," he said. "I wanted to come to a great team. It should be a great fit."

Divac comes full circleVlade Divac has come full circle to rejoin the Los Angeles Lakers.

"I'm really happy, for my family, too," Divac said Tuesday after signing a two-year contract with his former team. "This was my home when I came to America in '89. It was my first NBA team and it was special to me."

The 36-year-old center from Serbia, who played the past six seasons for the Sacramento Kings, will fill the spot left vacant when Shaquille O'Neal was traded to Miami last week.

Divac played seven seasons with the Lakers before being traded to the Kings.

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