Shaquille O’Neal is widely known for his achievements with the Los Angeles Lakers (rightly so), but his origin story comes from the Orlando Magic, even if he didn’t really feel like he was a fit there.
Everyone knew Shaq was going to be something special coming out of college. He dominated during his time with the LSU tigers, averaging 21.6 points per game, 13.5 rebounds per game, and 4.6 blocks per game in his three years at college.
The Orlando Magic, holding the number one overall pick in the 1992 draft, had the easisest pick to make. O’Neal went first overall to the Magic, and the hope was that he would begin the process of making Orlando a title contender. After adding Penny Hardaway with the third pick the next year, it certainly looked like that would be the case.
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) September 9, 2021
That was, of course, until Shaq left Orlando for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Shaquille O’Neal Admitted Orlando Wasn’t A Fit For His Personality
There may have been many reasons Shaq left Orlando for the Lakers, but one main reason was definitely the fact that he felt like Orlando as a place wasn’t doing it for him.
Of course, when you compare Orlando to Los Angeles, there’s definitely a big gap in terms of how the cities’ vibes are. Los Angeles is one of the biggest markets in the NBA, and while Orlando is a pretty big city, it doesn’t quite compare to the bustling city lights of LA.
Additionally, in LA, everyone’s a big star. Of course, with Hollywood being right there, you’re sure to see some big shot around the city at some point. That usually means that even if you’re doing something wild or story-worthy, there will always be someone doing something even more crazy or insane. In Shaq’s words in his book Shaq Talks Back:
“When I was in Orlando, I really felt like a big fish in a small, dried-up pond. No matter what I did, it got talked about, until I couldn’t live my life. But out in L.A., for everything you do, there’s always some other star acting crazier.”
Shaq definitely got his wishes, and he was able to thrive in LA. He won three NBA titles and finals MVP, completing a three-peat with Kobe from 2000-2002, so it looks like the shift in environment definitely had a major impact on his play.