The Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant era in Los Angeles was a successful, albeit shorter than anticipated tenure.
The two teamed up in 1996, when O’Neal signed with the Lakers after four seasons in Orlando, and won three consecutive championships together from 1999-2002. But after the 2003-04 season, when the Lakers were defeated in five games by the Pistons in the NBA Finals, it all came crumbling down.
O’Neal, 31 at the time, often clashed with Bryant, with the two beginning to speak out against each other in the media. O’Neal, who was looking for a contract extension, did not receive one from the Lakers. Bryant did, inking a seven-year, $136 million deal to remain in purple and gold. There was no room for O’Neal or interest in retaining him, meaning he would be traded.
O’Neal revealed on a recent episode of The Big Podcast with Shaq that upon learning that the Lakers were planning on moving him, he immediately pulled up to the facility in search of general manager Mitch Kupchak.
But he wasn’t coming to talk.
“I can’t get a call. So, what I did is I got in my car and went to the office,” O’Neal said. “They knew it was coming. The police was waiting for me. I was going in there to put my hands on Mitch Kupchak.”
O’Neal used his past history to draw a comparison to the way Frank Vogel’s firing as Lakers head coach took place last week. Shortly after the final game of the season, reports from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski indicated that Vogel was expected to be relieved of his duties. After a reporter brought up the report to Vogel in the post-game presser, Vogel said, “I haven’t been told sh*t.”
“He [Vogel] was done dirty because that’s how I heard I was getting traded,” O’Neal said. “I’m eating cereal with Shareef planning on vacation, Oh the Lakers will be taking trades for Shaquille O’Neal like that.”
While O’Neal would soon hit the age block of his career after his trade to Miami, he did, alongside a young Dwyane Wade, lead the Heat to their first NBA championship in the 2005-06 season. He would bounce around the league after three plus seasons in Miami, playing for the Suns, Cavaliers and Celtics before retiring after the 2010-11 season.
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