Former Magic GM blames salary spike for losing Shaquille O’Neal to Lakers in 1996
The Orlando Magic saw their window of opportunity careen down the toilet once Shaquille O’Neal left the team for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996. Yet then-general manager Pat Williams explained exactly how the Magic lost the superstar big man at the time:
“The price of ball players elevated so quickly that our offer to Shaq looked tame by the time Alonzo Mourning got his new deal with Miami, and Shaq was very insulted,” said Williams in a SiriusXM NBA Radio interview. “We eventually made the same offer but by then Jerry West had already cleared cap room, and Shaq was wooed, and it was just too late for us.”
Why did Shaq leave the Magic for the Lakers?
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) May 7, 2020
All it took was a little crack of the window for that La La Land wind to drift in, and it sure felt nice for Shaquille O’Neal, who was also envisioning branching out his brand to pursue avenues in rap music and movies.
All that Hollywood allure, along with a hefty payday made Los Angeles a no-brainer for O’Neal, who mustered three straight titles with the Lakers after joining forces with a young Kobe Bryant.
The Magic would eventually recover by landing Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady in 2000, but it was never the same as the Shaq-and-Penny show in Orlando.
Hill would suffer an injury only four games into his stint with the Magic, one that would eventually begin to derail his career as a star in the league. McGrady won two scoring titles with the Magic, but never made it past the first round of the playoffs.