What If the Lakers Had Never Traded Shaquille O'Neal?

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votes: 51
LNS HOF Bronze
Age: 33

Posts: 7071
Location: Pasadena, CA

by Mike B

After inking a seven year, $121 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996, Shaquille O'Neal, with the help of Kobe Bryant, lead his new team to three consecutive NBA titles from 2000-2002.

The Lakers were bounced out of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs in '03, but reached the Finals in '04, where they lost to the overachieving Detroit Pistons in five games.

In the summer of '04, management decided to break up the dynamic duo of Shaq and Kobe, who were constantly feuding with one another, and rebuild the team around the much-younger Bryant.

O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in exchange for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, and future first-round draft pick (Jordan Farmar).

Without Shaq, the Lakers missed the playoffs in '05, suffered first-round exits the following two years, lost in the finals in '08, and then won it all in '09.

So basically, the Lakers didn't turn into a perennial lottery team by trading O'Neal, but just imagine what may have happened if the deal had never went down.

What if Shaq and Kobe could have worked out their differences and had remained the best of friends and what if head coach Phil Jackson didn't take a one-year leave?

Just how many more championships could they have won together? At least two or three.

It would have been pretty interesting to watch Shaq and Kobe switch roles. Shaq would have went from "The Man" of the team to Kobe's superstar sidekick, much like he did in Miami with Dwyane Wade.

Speaking of D-Wade, he might have been ringless today if he had never joined forces with Shaq. But then again, the Heat could have packaged Odom, Butler, and Grant and acquired another star that Wade could have teamed with to win a title.

You never know.

It's unclear what role players may have been brought in to surround the Kobe-Shaq duo.

It definetley would have been interesting to see Karl Malone and Gary Payton stick around for at least another year. Malone might have retired with a championship and Payton might have gotten his ring in LA instead of Miami.

You probably would have seen the Lakers sign fairly inexpensive veterans like Alonzo Mourning, who backed up Shaq in Miami, Michael Finley and Antonio McDyess.

And if the Lakers hadn't traded Shaq, they likely would have owned a lower pick in the '05 draft meaning they could have taken either Danny Granger, Nate Robinson or David Lee instead of Andrew Bynum.

A trio of Kobe, Shaq, and Granger wouldn't have quite been Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy, but it would have led the Lakers to tons of victories.

But does it really matter who the role players would have been? The Lakers won three titles with a non-All-Star supporting cast that included guys like Derek Fisher, Brian Shaw, and Rick Fox.

As long as they had a healthy Shaq and Kobe, the Lakers could have won with a bunch of middle school kids filling in as the role players.

Yes, the Lakers may have hung a few more championship banners in Staples Center if Shaq was never sent packing, but on the other hand, it could have turned out to be a total disaster.

We'll never know what may have happened.

Hindsight is 20/20.

Link: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/335430-what-if-the-la-lakers-had-ne ver-traded-shaquille-oneal

votes: 18
Laker GM
Posts: 4087
Location: Yorba Linda, CA

I never think about this.

votes: 291
LNS HOF Bronze

Posts: 9286
Location: Pennsylvania


Yep, I agree. Way to many variables. This is the most idle and fanciful of speculations by that writer.

One thing he gets wrong right off the get go is when he says "If Shaq and Kobe could have worked out their differences." No way Kobe was going to play with Shaq anymore. For a lot of reasons. If the writer wants to go down that long road of speculation, he should at least start with a real premise: Shaq stays and Kobe leaves. Cuz thats how it would have gone down.

votes: 145
LNS HOF Silver
Posts: 14659
Location: North Bend, OR

Pure fantasy on the part of the article's writer. Kobe nearly bolted in the free agency Summer of '04 even after it was confirmed that Shaq was gone for good. From what I recall, the Bulls and Clippers made very tempting offers to Kobe, but thankfully he decided to stay with the Lakers.

Considering the fact that after Shaq was traded, it only took 3 short years before Kobe was demanding a trade for himself, that leaves little doubt in my mind that Kobe could NEVER have "worked things out" with Shaq. It's something of a minor miracle that Kobe has stuck with the Lakers for this many years and I give all the credit to the Lakers ownership and front office staff, who've shown infinite patience and understanding with the disreputable and supremely gifted superstar.

votes: 28
LNS HOF Bronze
Posts: 5827

If the Queen had Bails she would have been King!

votes: 34
Laker GM
Posts: 4169
Location: O.C. of Southern California of the U.S.A.

I'll tell you what would happen. The Clippers would have won their 1st championship ever. On second thought, maybe not. Not with that loser of an owner named Donald Sterling.

votes: 98
LNS HOF Bronze
Posts: 8626

And what if the recount was allowed an Al Gore was President? You can do these "what-ifs" ad infinitum, but they really don't get you anywhere.

A number of years ago, I was totaled by a truck who missed my drivers side by inches. As I was being taken away on a gurney (I was OK) I yelled at him, "What, you couldn't have kissed your kid one extra time this morning and not been here?" He yelled back, "Or I could have rushed out of my house and hit you in the driver's seat, crushing you!"

The way events unfold is the way events unfold. I am sure Lincoln would have passed on the play had he known what was going to happen. But he didn't, and that is that.

History is a one way road.

We play Boston on Sunday. Go Lakers!

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