Cover Image for “Pat Riley is the Godfather, and you don’t mess with a guy like him!”: What led to Shaquille O’Neal opening 24-hour fitness club all across Miami

“Pat Riley is the Godfather, and you don’t mess with a guy like him!”: What led to Shaquille O’Neal opening 24-hour fitness club all across Miami

Raahib Singh
|Sun Mar 27 2022


Back in 2004, Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat. Upon arriving in Miami, he opened 5 24-hour fitness studios

The summer of 2004 was a summer of big changes in the Western Conference. After going to 4 straight NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers couldn’t keep their stars together. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were falling apart, and this resulted in Shaq being moved. This led to Shaq being traded to the Miami Heat.

Also Read: “Watch out! I, Shaquille O’Neal am coming for you!”: The Big Diesel was out to dunk on any and all legends of the game to stamp his authority

When Shaq went for his first press conference as a member of the Heat, he looked different. Shaquille O’Neal looked lean, and it looked like he had lost some 60lbs. There was a big reason behind the same, something which also was the key factor in Shaq opening 24 Hour Fitness Shaq Sport Clubs. The driving force behind the same? The Godfather of the NBA, Pat Riley.

Shaquille O’Neal talks about Pat Riley and his body fat percentage rule

In his book, ‘Shaq Uncut: My Story’, Shaquille O’Neal talks about what led him to open 5 gyms within months of him getting traded to the Heat. The answer was simple. Pat Riley.

When Shaq was traded to the Heat, Pat Riley was the Heat’s President. Riley had a strict body fat rule for his players, something which stands true to date. Shaq wrote,

“Everything was looking great, except one thing: I didn’t have time to do anything but work out all day long because Pat was all hung up on this body fat program. He was very serious about it. He expected all the guards to have 6 percent body fat, the forwards to have 7 to 8 percent body fat, and the centers to have 10 percent body fat.”

Shaq did not agree with Riley’s idea of body fat percentage, and how that affects their winning chances. He even wrote about the same in his book.

“It made no sense to me. I had been taking care of my body for twelve NBA seasons and we had won three championships, and I had never seen anyone from the Miami Heat even come close to winning anything. They may have been in the best shape, but I never saw any of them around when we were passing out rings.” 

From media day to training camp, Shaq reduced his body fat down to 13%. However, that still did not match the number Riley wanted. At that time, Pat gave Shaq a warning,

“If you don’t make the body fat percentage, you will be fined $1,000. The next time you are fined again, and the third time you are suspended a game.”

Shaq opened his own gyms to get his body fat percentage down

Shaquille O’Neal did not agree with Pat Riley but that didn’t mean that Shaq wouldn’t follow what Riley said. Shaq was always getting triple or quadruple teamed, and Shaq believed he needed the cushioning to sustain the blows he took during games. However, he also knew that ‘Riley is his boss, and you don’t mess with a guy like him.’

Shaq knew he needed to be in the gym more, and decided to call his business associates about opening 24-hour fitness clubs.

“Clearly I wasn’t going to be able to follow my regular routine and meet Pat’s requirements. One of the first things I did was call up my business partners who helped me run these twenty-four-hour fitness clubs that I owned. I told them, “Hey, I’ve got to work out every night—we need a couple of gyms down here.” So we opened up five of them in the Miami area right away.”

Well, despite the gyms, Shaq could not cut down to 10% body fat. However, he was a huge reason the Miami Heat won their first even championship in 2006. In 2021, 17 years after going to Miami, Shaq finally admitted to Riley how he used to cheat out of body fat exams.

Also Read: “I was diagnosed with sleep apnea and was dependent on painkillers not addicted”: Shaquille O’Neal on his wake-up call after a recent health checkup

I guess it doesn’t matter if you’re as big and bad as Shaq. The Godfather is equally terrifying for all.


About the author
Raahib Singh

Raahib Singh

Raahib is an NBA Editor at The SportsRush. A Computer Science Engineer by qualification, Raahib's passion for sports drew him towards TSR, and his love for Stephen Curry and the Warriors made him stay. Raahib enjoys reading, watching movies, and exploring new things during his free time.

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