Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Heat before the 2004-05 season, ending his run in Los Angeles alongside Kobe Bryant and breaking up one of the most dominant duos in Association history.
While many pointed to Bryant’s growing dissatisfaction with Shaq as a teammate, Lakers owner Jeanie Buss says that Bryant shouldn’t bear the blame for breaking up the two sides.
Speaking on the “All the Smoke” podcast with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, Buss explained that money was ultimately the decider in moving the All-NBA center.
“Shaq was in a contract year. … Because of the way the collective bargaining agreement was structured, there were some players that were grandfathered in in the new agreement, that you were able to pay them more than the current players, so Shaq was one of those grandfathered players,” Buss said.
“He wanted an amount of money that was legal under the CBA but it wasn’t what my dad wanted to pay him. And so, it came to the point where the decision was made to trade Shaq. And a lot of people want to put that blame on Kobe. It wasn’t. It was purely a money situation.”
Buss said that the two sides were far, far apart on contract extension talks at the time.
After contract negotiations between both sides fell through, O’Neal was traded to the Heat, where he would play two dominant seasons, winning the 2006 NBA Finals alongside Dwayne Wade, before entering the twilight of his career in a trade to Phoenix in 2007. He would sign a five-year, $100 million pact with the Heat upon arrival.
Bryant and the Lakers wouldn’t win another championship until 2009, the first of two alongside Pau Gasol.
Shaq and Kobe would maintain a well-documented icy relationship throughout their career, but would make amends later on, with both sides sharing a mutual respect for one another.
Oh, what could have been.
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