Shaquille O’Neal is one of the best players to ever play for the Los Angeles Lakers. The Hall of Famer won three championships, three Finals MVPs and one regular-season MVP with the purple and gold and is seventh in franchise history in field goals, sixth in total rebounds, second in blocks, seventh in points, second in points per game, fifth in rebounds per game and first in player efficiency rating.
O’Neal played for the Orlando Magic, Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics during his legendary career. In his lone season with the Cavaliers, O’Neal was teammates with LeBron James, who won his second MVP Award while playing with Shaq.
LeBron and O’Neal have remained friends over the years and the latter was happy when the former won the 2020 championship with the Lakers.
“After all that we went through [in 2020], it was a good ending for them to win the championship,” O’Neal told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk in December 2020. “I am sure if [Bryant] was still here, he would definitely be proud and showing his love and support on social media.”
LeBron and Co. were supposed to compete for another championship this season, but this year’s Lakers team has been a train wreck. They are in ninth place in the Western Conference standings and aren’t title contenders despite having LeBron, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.
Some insiders have suggested that trading LeBron this summer may be a smart move since the King is getting older and can leave Los Angeles in the summer of 2023. However, O’Neal believes that would be a terrible decision.
O’Neal: Lakers Shouldn’t Trade LeBron
O’Neal told CNBC that the Lakers would be making a mistake if they traded LeBron this offseason. The Big Aristotle stated that the franchise would “never win again” if LBJ was moved.
“If you trade LeBron, you’ll never win again,” O’Neal said. “If you put LeBron around the right guys, they are definitely going to win. “I think whoever put the team together needs to step up and try and fix it.”
LeBron is averaging 29.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists this season. He’s still one of the best players in the NBA despite being 37 years old and in his 19th campaign.
However, since the Lakers are a below-average team and don’t have any first-round picks until 2027 and LeBron becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2023, several people around the NBA think Los Angeles vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka should trade the Akron Hammer this summer so that the franchise avoids years of mediocrity, gets draft picks for the 2022 draft and doesn’t run the risk of losing LeBron for nothing.
Lakers Reporter Argues Why Trading LeBron Would Be Smart
“At this point in his career, there really is only one way LeBron James can help the Lakers win a championship. They must trade him,” Plaschke wrote. “It’s their best chance at getting the fastest start on their inevitable rebuild. It’s their last chance to fix the Lakers brand before it sinks into what could be a decade of mediocrity.
“James is one of the few players in the NBA who could instantly turn a championship contender — which the Lakers are decidedly not — into champions. He’s not built for the long haul, but as a one-year rental, even at his age, he could command a bounty that could set up the Lakers to become something they haven’t been in years.”
O’Neal, a Lakers icon, doesn’t want the LakeShow to trade LeBron. Meanwhile, Plaschke — a Hall of Fame writer — thinks it would be wise for the Lakers to move on from the Chosen One.
It will certainly be fascinating to see which route Pelinka takes this summer.