The Los Angeles Lakers’ dream duo, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, dominated the basketball world between 1996 and 2004, earning three consecutive titles from 2000 to 2002. However, their seemingly unbreakable partnership fractured, leading to O’Neal’s trade to Miami in 2004. While many assumed it was due to a conflict between the two superstars, O’Neal recently revealed that his departure from the Lakers was primarily about money.
In an appearance on the “All The Smoke” podcast, Shaquille O’Neal opened up about his decision to leave the Lakers. Contrary to popular belief, O’Neal stated that his feud with Bryant wasn’t the main factor. Instead, it was the Lakers’ insistence on a pay cut that led him to request a trade.
“They wanted me to take less money. I’m not doing that,” O’Neal explained. Despite having amassed considerable wealth, the NBA legend couldn’t bring himself to take a reduced salary.
Reflecting on his career, Shaq admitted that if he could do it all over again, he would have preferred to stay with the Lakers. He expressed regret for not consulting his family more and acknowledged that his ego played a significant role in his decision-making.
In his post-Lakers career, O’Neal went on to win one more championship with the Miami Heat in 2006. However, he believes that had he remained in Los Angeles, he could have secured seven titles in total. While it’s impossible to know for sure, the O’Neal and Bryant partnership remains one of the NBA’s greatest “what-if” scenarios.