Shaq knew Lakers would get rid of him if they did not win 2004 championship
The 2003-2004 season turned out to be Shaquille O’Neal’s last with the Los Angeles Lakers. He says he knew before the NBA Finals that if they didn’t win it all, he would be gone.
Shaq was a guest on “The Odd Couple with Chris Broussard and Rob Parker” and talked about the situation. The matter came up because the ESPN documentary “The Last Dance” highlighted how the Chicago Bulls knew the 1997-1998 season would be their last together, regardless of the season’s outcome.
“Same thing that was going on in this documentary now, same thing that was going on with me. It was told to me that if we don’t win the series (the 2004 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons), I’m out of there,” Shaq told the hosts.
O’Neal says he was told the information “from somebody upstairs in the office. (They said) ‘Hey, if we don’t win this series, they’re looking to make changes.’ So I knew once we lose, it was time for me to do something else.”
The Lakers assembled a dream team of sorts with Gary Payton and Karl Malone joining Shaq and Kobe Bryant. Still, the Lakers lost in five games to the Pistons. Shaq ended up being traded to the Miami Heat, as the Lakers chose to build around Bryant moving forward. O’Neal led Miami to the championship two years later, while the Lakers won championships in 2009 and 2010.