Shaquille O'Neal and the Miami Heat will open defense of the National Basketball Association crown on Halloween as part of the 2006-2007 season schedule announced on Tuesday by the league.
The Heat will host Chicago on Oct. 31 and the Los Angeles Lakers, led by NBA scoring champion Kobe Bryant, will host two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Steve Nash and Phoenix the same night in the showcase opening night matchups.
O'Neal's Heat and his former team, the Lakers, will have a pair of holiday meetings. The Lakers will travel to Miami on Christmas and then host the Heat on January 15, Martin Luther King Junior Day.
The civil rights pioneer's holiday will also see Phoenix at Memphis, the city where King was assassinated at a motel that is now a civil rights museum.
Nov. 5 will feature the Houston Rockets, led by Chinese star center Yao Ming, at New Orleans to face the New Orleans-Oklahoma City Hornets in one of six games scheduled to be played in the city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina last year.
The second night of the NBA season, Nov. 1, features LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers playing host to Washington and the Los Angeles Clippers visiting Phoenix.
James and Miami's Dwyane Wade, two rising young NBA star guards, will meet three times in February and again on April 5.
The next night features a showdown between defending Western Conference champion Dallas and visiting San Antonio while James and the Cavaliers visit the Spurs and Seattle will visit the Lakers.
The Heat and Dallas will meet in a rematch of the NBA Finals twice, with the Mavericks in Miami on Jan. 21 and the heat in Dallas on Feb. 22.
The NBA All-Star Game will be staged in Las Vegas on Feb. 18.