Shaquille O'Neal Traded to Miami Heat

It's official: The Shaquille O'Neal (search) era in Los Angeles is over, and his new team is the Miami Heat (search).

The Lakers and Heat finalized a trade Wednesday sending O'Neal to Miami. Los Angeles gets Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and a first-round draft pick.

The deal had been on the verge of completion since Saturday, when O'Neal met in Orlando with Heat president Pat Riley and agreed to the trade. NBA attorneys approved it on the same day the league's two-week moratorium on player movement ended.

Acquiring O'Neal is literally a big deal for the Heat, who will count on the 7-foot-1, 340-pound center to transform them into a championship contender.

At 32, O'Neal is coming off a season when he averaged a career-low 21.5 points, and he has missed 15 games each of the past three seasons with foot and leg injuries. But he's an 11-time All-Star with career averages of 27.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks, and he changes the balance of power in the Eastern Conference, where there's a dearth of dominating centers.

The trade marks a return to Florida for O'Neal, who began his NBA career in 1992 with Orlando and still has a home there. He led the Magic to the finals in 1995, signed with the Lakers as a free agent in 1996 and helped them win three NBA titles.

Days after the Lakers lost this year's championship series to Detroit, O'Neal demanded to be traded, weary of feuding with Kobe Bryant (search) and feeling disrespected by owner Jerry Buss (search). He's under contract for $27.7 million this coming season and $30.6 million in 2005-06.

O'Neal joins a Heat team that has reached the conference finals only once in its 16-year history and went 42-40 last season, instantly becoming South Florida's most high-profile athlete.

With the departure of three starters, Riley will build his team around O'Neal, Olympian Dwyane Wade and Eddie Jones, Miami's leading scorer each of the last four seasons. The Heat will now shop for help at both forward positions and backup point guard, and free agents will likely consider them a more appealing option with the addition of O'Neal.

O'Neal is not expected to speak publicly until at least Friday, the Heat said.

Each player involved in the trade must pass a physical before joining his new team.

O'Neal has already made an impact in Miami, with the Heat's ticket sales brisk this week. He's moving from one city enthralled by celebrities to another, but there are a lot more of them in Los Angeles than in Miami, and O'Neal is likely to become the biggest thing on South Beach.