Kobe Bryant was ready to move out before Shaquille O’Neal requested trade
The breakup of the Los Angeles Lakers’ one-two punch of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal will always stick as a pivotal moment of the end of a dynasty. Yet things could have played much differently in La La Land if the two superstars were more in touch with each other after their reported rift.
Bryant had about had it with his co-star and frustration was visible between the two, as The Black Mamba looked for a way out. He was exploring a potential trade to the Chicago Bulls in 2007, which would end his run with the Lakers — something O’Neal was apparently fully unaware of to Bryant’s surprise.
“Honestly, the biggest shock to me was that Shaq didn’t know that [I was 100 percent ready to be traded],” Bryant told Alex Kennedy as a guest of The HoopsHype Podcast. “That was the biggest surprise to me, that he was unaware of that! I think, had he known how serious I was about going someplace else, he never would’ve demanded a trade [and he would’ve stayed in Los Angeles].”
“But when he got traded, that stopped me from going anywhere else because there was no way that Jerry Buss was going to lose Shaq and me in the same summer. So if he had known how serious I was about leaving, I don’t think he ever would’ve demanded a trade.”
The Lakers would swing O’Neal in a trade to the Miami Heat, which wound up making Bryant a Lakers lifer, playing all his 20 seasons with the franchise.
Bryant would soon get some help with the addition of Pau Gasol, edging O’Neal, who won another championship with the Heat — with two other rings in 2009 and 2010.