They won championships and put LA on the map after a drought in the 90s.
On this day 23 years ago, Shaquille O’Neal left the Orlando Magic and joined the Los Angeles Lakers.
Shaq signed a seven-year, $121 million contract with the Lakers.
As a result, the Lakers won 56 games during the 1996–97 season.The Lakers made the playoffs and were eliminated in the by the Utah Jazz in five games in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
Shaq averaged 26.2 points and 12.5 rebounds in his first season in Tinsel Town despite missing over 30 games due to injury.
NBA Hall of Famer, Jerry West, currently in a consultant role with the Los Angeles Clippers was the architect in creating the great 1980s Lakers dynasty which brought five championship rings (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988) to the purple and gold.
He ran it back in the late 90s and 2000s and brought Shaq and Kobe together.
For those keeping score at home: Jerry West traded Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets on NBA Draft Day in 1996 in a deal that brought Kobe Bryant to LA LA land.”
“All Jerry West did was tell the truth,” Shaq told me.
“So when I was leaving Orlando, he brought me here and told me the truth. I would have a young team and a guy named Kobe. That guy’s going to be good but in a couple of years you’re going to have championships. It wasn’t no ‘get you this or get you that.’ Jerry’s not that type of guy.”
That’s a tall task and they got it done. Shaq and Kobe did not stay together.
The two were able to win three consecutive NBA Championships from 2000-2002 (2000, 2001, 2002) and make an NBA Finals appearance in 2004.
Shaq was the NBA Finals MVP in each of their victories.
Shaq and Kobe’s differences and arguments over their respective roles on the Lakers, followed by a trade that sent O’Neal to the Miami Heat while Bryant was re-signed as a free agent by the Lakers were later detailed in Phil Jackson’s book, The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul.
“I think one of the problems that occurred with the Lakers when he had Shaq there, was that he was not happy that Shaq didn’t come ready to play all the time,” NBA Hall of Famer, Rick Barry once told me on the Scoop B Radio Podcast.
“And didn’t play himself into shape and show up to ready to play all the time. And I think that really bothered Kobe a lot. And I think both of those guys were foolish not talking about it, because they had something special going.”
Rick Barry was one of the best to ever lace ‘em up. A champion in both the NBA and ABA, he’s a multiple All Star, scoring champ, was one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players and the master of the underhanded free throw.
Barry like most NBA fans ponders the Kobe and Shaq ‘what if’ in LA. “It was something that doesn’t happen happen very often,” Barry told Scoop B Radio.
“And eventually sometime when they are a lot older in life they’ll be sitting down saying: “What the hell was I thinking about?” “Why in the world didn’t Kobe and I didn’t just stay together and create a real true dynasty?”
Shaq and Kobe are now in a good place.
“I’m really happy that he and Shaquille are in a different place,” Shaq’s mom, Lucille O’Neal told me in 2017 on a Mother’s Day Episode of the Scoop B Radio Podcast.
“When you grow up to be a man, all those childish ways, you need to let them go.”