Smart business decision by the Lakers
"It came down to the best offer. Jerry West made me the best deal, and I took it."
The Lakers' best deal offered to Shaq was a 7-year, $120 million contract after the Magic failed to meet Shaq’s contract demands. Due to the CBA that resulted from the ’95 lockout, restricted free agency was eliminated for the first and only time in the salary cap era, meaning that Orlando couldn’t match LA’s offer, making O’Neal officially a Laker.
‘I think it’s great for Shaq. There are guys that haven’t done a whole lot who are getting a whole lot of money. So a guy like him, he deserves it and more power to him,’ said Karl Malone after O’Neal signed the biggest contract in the NBA at the time. The Lakers were obviously pledging for the future, and looking at the aftermath, it sure paid dividends. However, not everyone saw it as a smart investment.
"If I were an NBA owner, I wouldn't give this guy $120 million."
Criticism from other NBA players
Charles Barkley is another one who hopped on Shaq's new contract saying he wasn’t deserving of that money train. Chuck’s rationalization was centered around O’Neal’s inability to deliver in the crunch time – more specifically – his inability to hit free throws. Shaq wasn’t buying it, saying he ‘beat more teams from the line than he lost games for his team.’ According to O’Neal, both comments had a common denominator – envy.
"They're both jealous. It's funny when a guy like Dennis Rodman was with a lesser team he didn't talk as much but when he got behind Jordan and Pippen and they do all the work and he does less work he runs his mouth. He knows he wants to say something he can say it to me. He never says it to me on the court, never."
And while this was a remarkable comeback by Shaq, his tenure with the Lakers remains one of the most dominant in NBA history. He won multiple individual and team accomplishments during that time: 3x NBA champion, 3x Finals MVP, 1x regular-season MVP. During his time with the Lakers, Shaq established himself as one of the greatest players in the franchise history – money well spent, if you ask me.