Shaq has hot take about how many more rings he could have won with Kobe Bryant
The Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant Los Angeles Lakers were easily one of the greatest teams in NBA history, winning three straight championships. But O’Neal believes they could have won more than double that if they had stayed together longer.
O’Neal appeared this week on Showtime’s “All The Smoke” podcast. During the episode, the Hall of Fame big man was asked how many more rings he could have won with Bryant had they stayed together in Los Angeles.
“Seven,” O’Neal replied. “The reason why I got traded, it wasn’t about me and Kobe beef. It was that they wanted me to take less money. I’m not doing that. I got money, I had money. I just should’ve been like, ‘Alright, I raised you enough. It’s your team now.’ I know what I’m gonna do. I’m still gonna do my 28 [points] and ten [rebounds].
“But I was like, “Nah, I want 150 [million dollars],” added O’Neal. “If I had to do it all over again, I probably would have had a meeting with the [Buss] family. ‘What y’all wanna do? Want me to take less money, take a lesser role, and stay here? Or you still want me to be Shaq?’ See, it’s that ego. The ego still got me what I wanted. I still went to Miami. Pat [Riley] took care of me, and I still won one. But I would’ve liked to stay there the rest of my career.”
Indeed, O’Neal won another NBA title with the Heat and dynamic guard Dwyane Wade in 2006 after being traded there. Bryant would also go on to win two more rings with the Lakers once they acquired another dominant big man in Pau Gasol. But winning another four championships together probably would have been a stretch.
The Lakers’ supporting cast around O’Neal and Bryant was aging after they came up short in the 2004 Finals with Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Head coach Phil Jackson also left the team after that season, though he did later return for another six seasons of coaching the Lakers. Finally, rivals in the Western Conference like the San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, and Dallas Mavericks were only getting stronger in the mid-2000s.
The O’Neal-Bryant partnership was always somewhat precarious as well. But it is definitely often fun to wonder what more could have been there.