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#pounditFriday, June 2, 2023

Shaq has interesting take on LeBron James’ legacy

Shaq holds a mic

Mar 24, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA: Former Los Angeles Lakers center Shaquille O’Neal speaks during a NBA game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Shaquille O’Neal might hate on a lot of current players, but LeBron James is not one of them.

Speaking at All-Star Weekend with Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson of Bally Sports, the retired center great O’Neal said that he believes that James is deserving of a statue outside of the Los Angeles Lakers’ arena.

“He did win a championship for the Lakers,” said O’Neal. “A lot of people say that don’t count. But if you don’t count his, then you can’t count Tim Duncan’s bubble championship. That’s right, I said it.

“LeBron has won as a Laker, he broke the [all-time scoring] record as a Laker,” O’Neal added. “Would I oppose him having a statue? No, I would not. If they wanna give him a statue, I would be down with that.”

O’Neal appears to be referring to the championship that Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs won in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. The Big Diesel is probably a bit biased there since Duncan and the Spurs swept his Lakers in the second round that year before winning it all. Additionally, James’ ring with the Lakers was far more of an anomaly since it took place during a once-in-a-century pandemic year at a neutral-site location with no travel and no fans (not to mention that James has not made it out of the first round in any other of his seasons with the Lakers). A lockout-shortened year is not nearly as rare as that (another one occurred when James won with the Miami Heat in the 2011-12 season).

As for O’Neal’s point about James deserving a statue, that is also debatable. O’Neal himself is one of several retired Lakers greats with statues outside of the Lakers’ arena (along with Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Magic Johnson, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). A statue of the late Kobe Bryant will also likely be coming at some point. But all of those figures (except for Baylor, who was nevertheless deserving as one of the first great Lakers in franchise history) brought the team multiple championships. James has only delivered a lone ring in five seasons, which is not nearly enough for a franchise as storied as the Lakers. They also hold a mediocre overall record of 191-175 (.522) since James arrived, including a dismal 60-81 (.426) over the last two seasons.

When it comes to other franchises, even players who have brought home the only title in team history are not necessarily getting honored like that. Thus, O’Neal’s take on James already being worthy of a statue from the Lakers is a very disputable one.

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