After losing to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers needed to regroup. They knew they could no longer run it back with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant as the two dynamic superstars feuded, leaving the organization to choose between them. On top of that, Phil Jackson, who led the Lakers to their three-peat run, was fired days after losing to the Pistons because Lakers owner Jerry Buss felt it was time for a change.
Phil Jackson wanted Shaquille O'Neal to stay
When Buss was in the middle of deciding between whether to keep Bryant or O'Neal, Jackson (who didn't know he was about to be fired at that time) chimed in and told Buss that he couldn't let go of O'Neal because he was the most dominant player in the league at that time. Buss, who eventually chose Bryant later on, told Jackson that his opinion didn't matter because he would no longer be part of the organization.
Jerry Buss' successor Jeanie Buss (who now runs the Lakers), recently recalled the time when Jackson tried to save O'Neal's legacy in Los Angeles but to no avail.
"When Shaq got traded, that was really hard. I tell the story about how my dad made the decision because he couldn't pay Shaq the money that he could earn under the collective bargaining agreement, so a trade was coming up. At the end of the season. Phil (Jackson) went to meet my father. He went in and said, 'you can't trade Shaq, he's the most dominant player in the league. You can't trade him.' My dad said, 'well, I am gonna trade him and it won't matter to you because you're not coming back as coach either. That's not your problem.' " Buss shared in her recent appearance on SiriusXM NBA Radio.
When Phil Jackson and Jerry Buss reunited
The most ironic part about the feud between Buss and Jackson is that both parties eventually reunited 361 days after their breakup. Thanks to Jeanie, who at that time was Jackson's fiance, the coach reunited with Buss. Jackson's second run in Los Angeles wasn't so bad as he won 2 championships but this time with Bryant as the lone superstar. If both parties didn't reunite, who knows if the Lakers would have 18 banners by now?
One of Jerry Buss's most significant decisions as an owner was not only hiring Jackson as a coach in 1999 but also bringing him back in 2005. Although his goal to keep O'Neal didn't work out, safe to say, Jackson did the right thing by running it back with the Lakers and winning 2 more championships in his second stint.