Shaquille O'Neal believes the best players on NBA teams should sometimes act in the role of a GM, especially when the championships are at stake.
Getting in the role of an GM
Numerous NBA fans today blame and make fun of LeBron James because of his apparent impact on which players are moved in or out of the team he is playing for. It's somewhat a public secret for which he gets a lot of criticism, but the fact of the matter is that franchise players have the power and influence on who gets to play with them on the same team. Players before him have done it, especially in those teams that are not in the big markets, which makes their free-agent signings a bit more complicated.
Shaquille O'Neal did it with the Orlando Magic and later the Lakers when he was very active in finding guys to help him win a championship. In his book "Shaq Talks Back", he details how he did it with the Lakers, where he secured a contract for an experienced veteran, Horace Grant. He needed some help under the basket, so he initiated a conversation with Grant, and soon enough, Grant was wearing a purple and gold jersey.
"So here we are, the defending champions, with no real power forward to help me down low against these big monsters from the Western Conference. I'm thinking, me, Kobe, and the fellas might be in a little trouble if the Lakers don't do something."
Shaq did it with Orlando and the Lakers
Shaq rationals the move to become a part-time GM as one of the primary duties for a franchise player. If you are the face and main star on a team, you need to act as an ambassador for your franchise and help attract players that could potentially help win more games.
"So I did the reverse Superman thing, hopped into a phone booth with my Lakers uniform on, and came out in a suit and tie. Just call me Shaq Kent—player by night, GM by day. Maybe I'm giving myself too much credit, but sometimes as a franchise player, you have to take matters into your own hands during the off-season. You not only have to work out and keep your body right but, sometimes, you have to play general manager, too."
Throughout NBA history, you had super-star players that were even accepting smaller contracts to make it work for the team. Shaq thinks that concept is nothing new under the sun, and for him, bringing Horace to the Lakers was definitely a decision within the organization he set up.
"Magic Johnson did it with the Lakers, reworking his own contract so the team could sign better players. Michael Jordan. Larry Bird. Isiah Thomas. They all had input into who coached them and who they played with.
I don't want to take all the credit for bringing Horace Grant to L.A., but from this recorded conversation I had with Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers general manager, in mid-August, well, you can see I had a little to do with it."
Some teams have a structure in place where they always make sure to find suitable players at any given time, but some have their franchise players to be the bridge between them and the players they want to pursue. Teams at least ask the franchise player his opinion when bringing a specific free agent, especially if it's another star-caliber guy. Some guys like Shaq want to take a more proactive approach, while some don't bother and let the GM take care of business.