Playing in Miami isn’t just beaches and nightclubs – there are two sides to that coin. The Miami Heat measures body fat twice a week, and you have to be under 9%. If you don’t make the cut, you don’t play. That presented a problem for Shaq and a few other players.
It’s not like Shaq didn’t know what he was signing up for. After their three-peat, the early 2000s Lakers knew that the Shaq & Kobe era was done. They made the smart decision and went with the young guy. Shaq knew it was the smart move, but used his influence with the Lakers and got traded to a team of his choosing, the Miami Heat.
Kobe’s main criticism of Shaq was a lack of dedication – Shaq would work himself into shape through the regular season, sometimes miss time with injuries or to rest. That approach doesn’t fly in Pat Riley’s organization. Shaq being Shaq, he tried everything he could to work around the rules. That led to some weird situations, as Udonis Haslem can confirm.
Me, Antoine and Posey had problems with the body fat structure. Every day on body fat [day], we’d be in the bathroom; one day, it was me, Posey and Antoine. We were rubbing baby oil on ourselves and on each other. UD came in and went, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?!?”Shaquille O’Neal, NBA on TNT
I’m going to go out on a limb and say Shaq didn’t meet the 9% body fat benchmark every time, yet played. Remember, the Heat were coached by Stan Van Gundy at the time, and Riley took over after it became apparent Van Gundy and Shaq weren’t working well together. If anyone knows how to handle superstars, it’s Pat Riley.
But, the Heat way also means there’s some internal policing. Haslem and Wade reminisced about other rules they had in place. For instance, Shaq would sometime enjoy two stakes and a sizeable portion of mashed potatoes after midnight. If there were a game the next day, Shaq wouldn’t get the ball in the first quarter.
The motivation of winning a title outside of LA (and without Kobe) combined with the Heat way resulted in a title in 2006. Shaq didn’t put up the raw numbers he did with the Lakers but played some of the most efficient basketball in his career. And rubbed himself, Antoine Walker and James Posey with baby oil.