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One of the most shocking trades in NBA history involved Shaquille O’Neal moving to the Miami Heat from the Los Angeles Lakers. 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 alongside everyone else. He made some interesting comments about the matter. Keep reading to discover how the Lakers dynasty was built and what Jordan would’ve done if he were in charge.

Shaquille O’Neal signed on with the Los Angeles Lakers

After four MVP-caliber seasons with the Orlando Magic, O’Neal signed as a free agent with the Lakers. Giving arguably the league’s most popular franchise one of its brightest young stars. 

Shaq would continue his domination on the court. While the Lakers were a pretty good team, they would need to be risky to take their success to the next level. This involved pulling off one of the most influential trades ever … on draft day.

The Lakers traded for Kobe Bryant on draft night

The 1996 NBA Draft is considered one of the best. However, Kobe Bryant, a high school prep-to-pro prospect out of Lower Merion high school would push the Lakers back to the top.

The Charlotte Hornets were in need of a big man, and center Vlade Divac was essentially being the odd man out after O’Neal joined the Lakers. So, Divac was traded to Charlotte in return for the draft rights to Kobe Bryant.

By the time he was a starter in his third season, Bryant was already considered one of the best shooting guards in the league. The Lakers were becoming an unstoppable force, with the Black Mamba and O’Neal playing excellent basketball together.

After losing in the second round to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1999 Western Conference semifinals, the Lakers would win three straight NBA championships. They were the fifth team to do so and the first team since the Chicago Bulls from ’96-98 to pull off the feat. 

LA 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, its 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.

Some think if Jordan were 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.


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