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Jerry West thinks the Lakers would have won more titles if Shaq and Kobe Bryant hadn’t split up

Did the legendary duo leave a few rings on the table?

Los Angeles Lakers Unveil Shaquille O'Neal Statue Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

One of the greatest “what-if” scenarios in NBA history is what would have happened if Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal had never feuded.

Arguably the most dominant duo the league has ever seen, Bryant and O’Neal won three titles in four trips to the NBA Finals before going their separate ways mainly due to an inability to get along with one another.

Many have wondered over the years about what would have happened if the two had stayed together, and the man who united them has a theory.

“I thought it was awful that he left,” West told Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times in an interview conducted before O’Neal’s statue at Staples Center was unveiled. “I think they could’ve won a couple more championships, but that wasn’t to be.”

Would Bryant and O’Neal have won more titles? It’s hard to say. The team they had just taken to the Finals was clearly on its last legs, and it’s likely the team would have had to get a little younger around them, or at least hit the free agent market looking for more ring chasers.

However, the counterpoint to that is easy: Bryant was just starting to enter his prime, and Shaq was still firmly in the midst of his. Plug in a few more pieces around them and hope for decent health and the Lakers might have been right back to having parades down Figueroa.

We’ll never know what would have happened for sure, but it’s hard to argue with West’s thoughts given the sheer amount of titles he’s won as an executive. He’d probably know what types of teams win championships better than this mere blogger.

Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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