INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — Shaquille O’Neal has one purpose in Cleveland: bring an NBA title to LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
“My motto is very simple,” the 15-time all-star centre said Thursday. “Win a ring for the King.”
Acquired in a trade last week with the Phoenix Suns, O’Neal was introduced Thursday by the Cavaliers, who believe he can be their missing piece. The city of Cleveland has been waiting since 1964 for one of its three pro sports franchises to win a championship.
During a 30-minute news conference that was more of a TV talk show featuring Shaq, the 37-year-old star said he just wants to fit in with a Cavaliers team that won 66 regular-season games last season but was eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals by the Orlando Magic.
“We have everybody in place,” said O’Neal, who has just one year left under contract but feels he can play three more seasons. “There’s no excuses. We’ve just have to get it done.”
O’Neal walked to the dais through a welcoming tunnel of kids from an area summer camp. He was presented with a No. 33 jersey and given a pair of winter boots and a snow shovel by Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who is sparing no expense to bring the Cavs a championship. Cleveland is the first cold-weather city O’Neal has played in after NBA stops in Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami and Phoenix.
There is a greater sense of urgency in Cleveland because James is entering his final year under contract. O’Neal insists this is “LeBron’s team” and he’s merely with the Cavs to put them over the top.
“I’ll fit in just fine,” he said. “They had a damn good team here already.”
O’Neal won three NBA titles with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000-02 and another with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat in 2006. O’Neal believes No. 5 is possible with “the great LeBron James.”
O’Neal joked that his three sons were excited he would be paired with the league’s reigning MVP.
“My sons love LeBron more than they love me,” he said. “I’m just a little jealous about it.”