Somewhat lost in Kobe Bryant's magical 60-point farewell performance were the major question marks about who will take his mantle as the next Los Angeles Lakers superstar. Could it be the flashy and promising D'Angelo Russell? Will Julius Randle exceed all expectations and develop into a franchise cornerstone? Or will it be a team effort from that lottery pick pairing, flanked by Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, Jr., and any other pieces added to supplement that young core?
According to former Lakers great and soon to be Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal, the team's next superstar isn't on their roster yet, but will be this summer.
When asked where Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant will play next season, Shaq paused, smiled, and named the team he won three titles with at the turn of the Century. "The Los Angeles Lakers," said O'Neal.
Most would assume this is just a prediction from O'Neal rather than actual reporting, but those would be ignoring the close sources Shaq has around Oklahoma City. For example, look at this picture of the Big Diesel with notorious Thunder superfan, Thundor:
Okay, so O'Neal probably doesn't have sourcing on this.
While nearly all Lakers fans hope that the promise of the team's young roster and league leading cap space will be enough to entice the Thunder star to leave the only franchise he's ever known for the West coast, luring Durant is still a pipe dream at best.
On the other hand, as the last franchise-changing free agent to sign with the franchise, Shaq does have some firsthand experience with the persuasiveness of a Los Angeles recruiting pitch. Still, it's best to file this outcome under unlikely at best, no matter what O'Neal says.
All quotes transcribed via ESPN. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.