Thursday evening was a memorable one for Miami Heat fans. For an organization that’s been so well-guided throughout it’s history, they’ve still taken the initiative to live-on with those memories.

Before the Heat sparked an epic comeback (down 19 in the second quarter) to defeat the Lakers 115-107, Hall of Fame Center Shaquille O’Neal was in town during TNT’s broadcast. It was a night that’ll certainly never be forgotten, as one of the greatest Centers of all-time, had finally received a banner to be raised in the rafters.

O’Neal was one of my biggest idols growing up, because of the way he simply dominated the interior. I can just remember getting called a three-second violation AT LEAST one time, in almost every game when I played in High School, because I wanted every rebound, and every possible point in the paint.

But enough of that, though.

O’Neal has had an influence on not just the fans lives, but even the players. And for what I’ve believed for such a long time now, if there was no Shaq, there was no HOF Shooting Guard Dwyane Wade.

It’s well documented that during the Heat’s title-run in 2006, a 24 year-old Wade was given the green light to lead the Miami Heat to their first-ever NBA title. It might’ve been the first time in O’Neal’s career where he actually took a backseat, but it wasn’t before he realized that his prime was just coming to a close.

O’Neal’s influence on a young Dwyane is what gave him “the winner’s mentality” instead of becoming an all-star on a below .500 team. D-Wade was a superstar, and three of those four Heat teams (prior to the big-three in 2010) were over .500.

We think about Shaq and Penny, then Shaq and Kobe, who won three titles, but What was most important for Shaq’s career, was that the then 33-year old finally humbled himself to Dwyane, who predictedly congratulated O’Neal on social media, had some heartfelt words for the former LSU dominator.

I believe for every player, a mentor should be involved. It’s something we don’t see enough of in today’s league — due to the lack of them “wanting” to learn from their elders.

But when it does happen, superstars are born.

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