6 – He ruined the Kobe – Shaq era. At least that’s how it was played out back in 2004. Both Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson were gone and we all got the feeling that Kobe forced Jerry Buss’ hand as a free agent. He even threatened to leave for the Clippers if something wasn’t done! Either that’s some serious bluffing or Kobe was extremely power hungry.
But as time passed we learned that it was Jerry Buss pulling the strings all along. Shaq had maybe 2 or 3 quality years left in the tank yet he didn’t want to take a cut in salary, work out in the offseason or comfortably settle in the role of number 2 behind Kobe. He had to go and Buss was keen on starting over with a young, athletic and exciting team (read: no Triangle Offense).
Early on things went from bad to worse as we all went through the Rudy T era (uggghhh) and watched Shaq raise a banner in Miami (double uggghhh). We always felt that Shaq and Kobe could go for a minimum eight-peat, but instead Shaq’s winning titles for Pat Riley of all people.
Shaq eventually left Miami, Phoenix and Cleveland all in ruins. Coaches all got fired and some relationships were soured. Shaq and Wade are hardly on speaking terms and Shaq literally stole his idea of “Shaq versus” from Steve Nash (who later cut a deal to get in on the cash and have a producer’s title).
Shaq burned bridges on so many teams that he had to settle for a veteran’s minimum with the Boston Celtics of all teams. As each day passes Shaq comes off at the insecure/jealous one who broke up the dynasty rather than Kobe.
Jerry Buss broke up the team not Kobe and gambled on a new era (with some humble pie and Phil Jackson along the way) and won big time.