Over the last 15 or so years we have had many people play a big role in the success of the Lakers. Jerry West, Kobe, Phil Jackson, and Mitch Kupchak to name a few. But when I look at all the moves the Lakers have made that has helped them win their last 5 championships I can't help thinking about one very instrumental component - Shaquille O'Neal.
We all remember when Shaq was unhappy in Orlando after Penny Hardaway had suddenly emerged as the Magic's golden boy. Shaq decided to head west and become our star player. His ego and inability to play nice with Penny was Orlando' burden, yet it became our treasure. Thanks Shaq.
As the Lakers prepared for their new superstar center, they made some changes. Vlade Divac had been our center. His services were no longer needed. Plus, he didn't come cheap. We had no need for a $4 million/year backup center. He became expendable so we traded him for Kobe Bryant. Thanks Shaq.
Our leading scorer at the time was Cedric Ceballos. With the addition of the Big Diesel our offense would now be centered around our center. With O'Neal, Ceballos' productivity declined. Cedric became expendable so we traded him for Robert Horry. Thanks Shaq.
Shaq stuck around for 3 great championships, but eventually the magical marriage that once was Shaq & Kobe was no more. People will blame Kobe for running off Shaq even though it was Shaq himself who demanded the trade. Tex Winters criticized O'Neal for trying too hard to be our scorer and not putting in the work on defense and rebounding. Shaq felt like the Lakers were catering too much to Kobe. Maybe they were. The Lakers knew who their golden boy was and just like Orlando - it wasn't Shaq. He was traded to Miami. At first there were a lot of criticism and people thought that the Lakers has pissed away any future chances of winning by trading away a superstar like Shaq. On the surface it didn't seem like we got very much, but Miami did in fact trade away a lot to get him. Lamar Odom is the only player from the deal that actually enjoyed any success in Los Angeles, but we used what we got from Miami to help shape our future. Take a look...
(1) We got Lamar Odom directly from Miami.
(3) After losing Shaq we had a dire need at center so we placed a high priority on drafting big men. Andrew Bynum was one of those guys we drafted.
(4) We also drafted Marc Gasol (future all-star C) in 2007 who was later another part of the Pau Gasol Memphis trade.
(5) We got a first round draft pick from Miami which we used on Jordan Famar. Famar was nothing spectacular, but when we drafted Javaris Crittenton the following year we ended up with a surplus of depth at the PG spot. Javaris was playing real well for us, but so was Famar so that made Crittenton expendable. Memphis took an interest in him and he was yet another part of the Pau Gasol Memphis trade.
So the Shaq-to-Miami deal played a significant role in how our team transformed years later, whether directly or indirectly. Odom, Gasol, and Bynum can all be linked to Shaq's departure in LA. Thanks Shaq.
Oh wait, there's more....
After Shaq was no longer helpful to the city of Miami, he was dealt to the Phoenix Suns. For Shaqs services, the Suns would have to give up Shawn Marion, $40 milllion, and 2 seasons of relevance. The Suns would then have to take on a new direction which included losing out on their big $$ free agent Amare Stoudamire to the New York Knicks, and most recently - trading Steve Nash to the Lakers. Thanks Shaq.
And finally, with the Lakers trading their big bargaining chip that is Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard, we can now say that Shaq has helped us bring in yet another superstar center who desperately wanted out of Orlando. Thanks Shaq.