Pat Riley: 'Shaq acquisition bigger than any ... including Big Three'

Was Shaq more important to Miami than the Big Three? (1:21)

Pat Riley thinks Shaq was the biggest acquisition the Miami Heat ever made, the Big Three included. (1:21)

Step aside, LeBron.

Team president Pat Riley says Hall of Fame inductee Shaquille O'Neal stands as the most significant prize the Miami Heat have landed during his 21-year tenure with the team.

"I'll say this, and I mean this," Riley told the South Florida Sun Sentinel recently. "Shaq's acquisition was bigger than any acquisition that we ever made, including the Big Three."

Alonzo Mourning arrived in Miami with Riley in 1995 and helped redirect the fortunes of a floundering expansion franchise.

A generation passed before the Heat played in four straight NBA Finals from 2011 to 2014 with the superteam of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, winning two titles.

But it was O'Neal -- not James, not Bosh, not Wade, not Mourning -- who gave the Heat the biggest piece of the puzzle, Riley said.

"Zo was big, but getting Shaquille changed everything for our franchise," Riley said, according to the Sun Sentinel.

O'Neal came to the Heat in a July 2004 trade that sent Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first-round draft pick to the Los Angeles Lakers.

O'Neal and Wade went on to lead Miami on a short-lived run in which they captured the 2006 NBA Finals in six games over the Dallas Mavericks.

O'Neal, along with Allen Iverson, highlights a 10-member class that will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday in Springfield, Massachusetts.

"The seminal moment to really make us really, really legitimate," Riley said of the O'Neal deal. "He turned our franchise around. He gave us real legitimacy."