During 2019 NBA free agency, there was a major recruitment effort to get a former Toronto Raptor to join the Los Angeles Lakers, but a while back, there was another recruitment effort between the two teams and it involved Vince Carter and Shaquille O’Neal.
Of course during that time, O’Neal was the most dominant force in basketball, racking up championships and Finals MVPs with the Lakers. Meanwhile, Carter had stormed on the scene as one of the most explosive leapers the league has ever seen and he wanted to bring the legendary center up to Canada.
Carter revealed as much in an interview with Jacob Feldman of Sports Illustrated, saying that he was never recruited but did try to convince O’Neal to join the Raptors and believed he was close to doing so:
No. The only time I can recall is I tried to get Shaq to Toronto. I felt like it was close. It was tough at the time, just because … a lot of guys were like, What’s Canada about? It was tough to convince players that it’s a great place until they’re actually there. Even me, when I worked out for them, I didn’t really know what they had to offer until I was actually there.
Things are much more out in the open these days so there’s a ton of talk and thoughts about players recruiting each other and whether that’s the thing to do. This, however, shows that recruitment has long been around in the NBA as players hoped to improve their situations.
Had Carter actually succeeded in convincing O’Neal to join the Raptors, the entire landscape of the NBA would’ve been completely different.
A tandem of O’Neal and Carter seems incomprehensible and it is anyone’s guess as to how they would’ve been stopped in their primes. It could’ve potentially allowed Carter to win the championship that has been so elusive in his career while O’Neal maybe could’ve won more than just the one he got with the Miami Heat.
These days, it’s basically a necessity to have at least two All-Star players together and players have no issues finding ones they want to play with and figuring out how to do so.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George teaming up with the Los Angeles Clippers is just the latest proof of that. However, even decades ago there were still players trying to improve their chances, but sometimes it just doesn’t work.