On July 14, 2004, the Los Angeles Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat, marking the end of a dynasty.
The Lakers originally signed O’Neal as a free agent in the summer of 1996 while he and Kobe Bryant went on to become perhaps the most dominant duo in NBA history.
In O’Neal’s eight seasons wearing the purple and gold, he was named an All-Star seven times while reaching the NBA Finals four times, winning three championships, three Finals MVPs, and one regular season MVP.
Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers became one of just a handful of teams to win three straight NBA championships from 2000-02. It is no secret that O’Neal and Bryant did not get along for most of it and after the Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals, their relationship reached a point where they could no longer play together and the Lakers prioritized keeping Bryant, so O’Neal was traded to Miami.
The Lakers did receive some solid pieces back in the deal as they acquired Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a future first-round pick, who turned into Jordan Farmar.
O’Neal got the first laugh considering just two years later, he won his fourth championship alongside Dwyane Wade in Miami. That was the only other ring he won in his 19-year career.
It took the Lakers a while to recover from trading a player of O’Neal’s caliber, but Bryant wound up leading them to two more championships in 2009 and 2010 with Odom and Farmar playing big roles off the bench for those teams. Butler was eventually traded to the Washington Wizards for Kwame Brown, who then helped the Lakers land Pau Gasol.
Since they have both retired, O’Neal and Bryant have mended their relationship, but it is tough not to imagine how many championships they could have won with the Lakers if they didn’t butt heads the entire time.
They will still go down as two of the best Lakers ever and both of their jerseys have already been retired with O’Neal also having a statue dedicated to him outside of Staples Center.
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