Shaquille O’Neal Was Told Lakers Would Trade Him If They Lost 2004 NBA Finals Vs. Pistons
Sports Illustrated

Shaquille O’Neal’s time with the Los Angeles Lakers is one of the most well-documented dynasties of all time, mainly due to the ongoing drama surrounding him and Kobe Bryant.

By the 2003-04 NBA season, the relationship was beyond repair and the Lakers knew they needed to make a change.

Despite that, the Lakers still made the 2004 NBA Finals and had a chance to win their fourth championship in five appearances. The Lakers had retooled their roster, adding Gary Payton and Karl Malone to an already elite roster and many felt they were a lock to win it all.

O’Neal is now saying that prior to the series, the Lakers told him they planned on moving on from him if he could not win the championship, according to Wil Leitner of Fox Sports:

“The same thing that was going on in this documentary was going on with me. It was told to me that if we don’t win the series [2004 NBA Finals vs. Detroit Pistons] I’m out of there.”

O’Neal was told this by somebody in the front office and knew his time was up when the Lakers eventually lost in five games to the Detroit Pistons:

“Yes, from somebody upstairs in the office, ‘Hey, if you don’t win this series, they’re looking to make changes’… I knew once we lost that it was time for me to do something else.”

Just about one month later, the Lakers officially traded O’Neal to the Miami Heat on July 14, 2004. They received a pretty substantial return, getting back Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant, and a first round pick in the 2006 NBA Draft that eventually became Jordan Farmar.

This signaled the end of the O’Neal-Bryant era and the Lakers became the latter’s team. O’Neal would go on to win the 2006 NBA Finals with the Heat and Bryant would win in 2009 and 2010 with the Lakers.

It all worked out in the end, but this story of O’Neal adds another layer of drama to an already intense multi-year saga. Perhaps one day a ‘The Last Dance’ style documentary will be made to cover the tumultuous three-peat Lakers.

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