At the start of the 2000s, the Los Angeles Lakers were a powerhouse of the NBA, winning three championships in a row and solidifying their spot as the best team of that era. All the success and glory the Lakers achieved at that time was contributed by their superstar duo of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal.
The Kobe-Shaq duo was unstoppable on the court, but their troubles started off the court, with the two megastars having largely different mentalities regarding work ethic. That resulted in them being one of the greatest NBA duos of all time and one of the most controversial ones.
In the end, the stars would fall out hard, getting into a war of words and creating a problem that couldn’t be fixed without the two splitting up. And that is precisely what happened as Shaq got traded to the Miami Heat in 2004, and Kobe became the lone face and star of the Los Angeles Lakers.
It was the end of a dynasty, with many Lakers fans blaming Kobe Bryant for forcing Shaq out of LA. But was that really the case? Current owner and president of the Lakers, Jeanie Buss, denied those allegations of Kobe while talking on the “All the Smoke” podcast with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, giving some insight into the situation and explaining why Shaq was really traded:
“Shaq was in a contract year. … Because of the way the collective bargaining agreement was structured, there were some players that were grandfathered in the new agreement, that you were able to pay them more than the current players, so Shaq was one of those grandfathered players. He wanted an amount of money that was legal under the CBA but it wasn’t what my dad wanted to pay him. And so, it came to the point where the decision was made to trade Shaq. And a lot of people want to put that blame on Kobe. It wasn’t. It was purely a money situation.”Jeanie Buss, All The Smoke
As the daughter of the former Lakers CEO, Jeanie Buss was around the organization at that time, so she knows what she is talking about. We have heard multiple times the problem with Shaq in 2004 was that he was an aging star that demanded more money than he deserved. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that if Kobe really wanted Shaq to stay, the Lakers’ front office would have made an effort to keep Shaq and the duo together. In the end, it worked out for both players, as they won rings on their own after and fixed their relationship many years later.