Shaquille O'Neal Criticizes Heat for Retiring Numbers 23 and 6

Exploring a unique twist in Miami Heat's jersey legacy.

by Nouman Rasool
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Shaquille O'Neal Criticizes Heat for Retiring Numbers 23 and 6
© Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The Miami Heat's recent announcement of retiring Udonis Haslem's jersey in January 2024 is generating much discussion in the basketball community. This tribute to Haslem's two-decade-long commitment to the Heat is set to elevate his No.

40 to a place of honor at the Kaseya Center in Miami, Florida. Haslem will join the elite circle of Miami greats, including Alonzo Mourning, Tim Hardaway, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Shaquille O’Neal, whose numbers already adorn the arena's rafters.

Heat's Controversial Retirements

However, the Heat's decision to retire numbers of players not directly linked to their franchise history has sparked controversy, particularly the retirement of Bill Russell's No. 6 and Michael Jordan's No.

23 jerseys. This unconventional move has not been universally accepted, as evidenced by the recent comments from Shaquille O’Neal, a key figure in Miami's championship history. During the latest episode of his "The BIG Podcast," O'Neal openly expressed his discontent with the Heat's approach to jersey retirements.

"I hate the fact that they hang up other people’s jerseys. I hope I’m not disrespecting anybody by this term,” O'Neal stated, emphasizing his connection to the Heat's legacy. “This thing is ours. This is what we built.

Michael Jordan ain’t never play for the Heat. Bill Russell ain’t never play for the Heat. You did your own thing with your little Celtics family and Chicago family,” he continued, “But this Miami thing? I was one of the original championship families...

this is our thing. So, I don’t like that personally”.

O'Neal, a pivotal figure in Miami's 2006 championship run, advocates for the tradition of retiring jerseys as a homage to players who have directly contributed to the team's success.

His stance highlights a broader debate in the sports world about how teams should honor their legacy and legends. The NBA's league-wide retirement of Russell's No. 6 following his passing in 2022, and the unique case of Jordan's No.

23 being retired by both Miami and the Chicago Bulls, further complicates this discussion. As the Heat prepare to celebrate Haslem's illustrious career, O'Neal's comments add a poignant perspective to the ongoing conversation about sports heritage and recognition.

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