His Airness, Michael Jordan discusses how he felt the Lakers trading away Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat was a huge mistake.
The shift of a new millennium had a shift of power in the NBA as well. From a decade that was mostly ruled by Michael Jordan and his Bulls, the early 00s were dominated by a powerful duo from Tinseltown. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were a dominating force together.
The dynamic duo came to be recognized as one of the most dominant duos in the league. Together they won 3 championships in a row from 2000 to 2002. After losing in the second round in 2003, they made their way back to the Finals in 2004, only to fall short to the Pistons.
“Trading away Shaq was the Lakers’ biggest mistake”: Michael Jordan
Not long after the Lakers lost to the Pistons in the 2004 Finals, they traded away Shaquille O’Neal to the Miami Heat. It was no secret that Kobe Bryant and Shaq did not see eye to eye always, and were always in a constant bout to be the alpha.
However, no one could have foreseen such a sudden trade taking place. In fact, if anybody was to be traded at that point, one could argue that it would have been Kobe. Shaq was by far the more popular player at the time, while Bryant was mired in the rape controversy in Denver at the time.
Michael Jordan talked about the same in an interview with Cigar Aficionado, back in 2005. He called the trade the biggest mistake the Lakers made at that time. According to MJ, good centers are rare, and to give up one was a big fault on the Lakers’ part.
“I would have never gotten rid of Shaq [O’Neal]. It’s as simple as that. You’ve got three championships with a big man, and big men are hard to find.”
“Not only that, you have the most dominant big man in the game today. You don’t just send him away because you got some problems.”
The Lakers, after breaking up took a whole of 5 years to win a ring again, and that too when they added Pau Gasol. His Airness was right, a good big man is very important to make it to the grand stage.