Michael Jordan Always Thought the Lakers and Kobe Bryant Made a Big Mistake Getting Rid of Shaquille O’Neal
One of the most shocking transactions in NBA history was the trade of Shaquille O’Neal from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Miami Heat. The Big Aristotle helped the Lakers win three championships alongside Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson so seeing him in another uniform sent shock waves around the league.
Michael Jordan saw the trade go down along with everyone else and had some interesting comments to say about the matter. Keep reading to find out how the Lakers dynasty was built and what Jordan would have done to fix things.
Shaquille O’Neal heading to the Los Angeles Lakers
After four MVP caliber seasons with the Orlando Magic, O’Neal signed as free agent with the Lakers. Giving arguably the league’s most popular franchise one of it’s brightest young stars.
He would continue his domination on the court, and while the Lakers were a pretty good team they would need to be risky in order to take their success to the next level. This involved pulling off one of the NBA Draft’s most influential trades ever.
The Lakers trading for Kobe Bryant on draft night
The 1996 NBA Draft is considered one of the best ever, but it was a high school prep to pro prospect out of Lower Merion high school that would surge the Lakers back to the top.
With the Charlotte Hornets in need of a big man, and center Vlade Divac essentially being the odd man out after O’Neal came to the team, he was traded to Charlotte in return for the draft rights to Kobe Bryant according to CBS Sports.
By the time he was a starter in his third season, Bryant was already considered one of the best shooting guards in the league and the Lakers were becoming an unstoppable force with Bryant and O’Neal playing excellent basketball together.
Completing the three-peat
After losing in the second round to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Western Conference semifinals, the Lakers would go one to win three straight NBA championships. NBA.com officially reported them as just the fifth team to do it and the first team since the Chicago Bulls from ’96-98 to pull off the feat.
LA clearly had their next great dynasty and wanted to pursue more championships, bringing in future Hall-of-Famers Gary Payton and Karl Malone. However, they ran into a defensive buzzsaw in the Detroit Pistons and lost in the 2003 NBA Finals.
Why the team had to part ways with Shaquille O’Neal
Although the team saw a lot of success on the court, it’s two biggest stars didn’t always see eye to eye. That led to the team trading O’Neal to the Miami Heat for a handful of players.
Most of the time when a player is traded we have to ask: “who won the trade”? However, in this instance, we can say both teams won.
The Heat won a championship with Dwyane Wade and the Lakers had enough cap space to trade for Pau Gasol a few years later and won back-to-back titles.
Michael Jordan’s comments about the Lakers trading Shaquille O’Neal
In 2005, Michael Jordan spoke to Cigar Aficionado about the trade and had this to say about it:
“I would have never gotten rid of Shaq [O’Neal]. It’s as simple as that. You’ve got three championships with a big man, and big men are hard to find. Not only that, you have the most dominant big man in the game today. You don’t just send him away because you got some problems.”
Jordan knows all about handling unique players after dealing with Dennis Rodman during his second run with the Chicago Bulls so these statements aren’t surprising at all.
Some think if Jordan was a part of that locker room he would have made the two players work their differences out for the good of the team. Jordan valued focus and hard work, however, above all Jordan valued winning.