Shaq didn't want to play for another coach after Lakers fired Phil Jackson: “That's like me training with a Ninja and then going down to a local karate instructor.“
2024/04/02

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Back in 2004, Shaquille O'Neal spoke with the Washington Post months after he was traded to the Miami Heat. During that interview, Shaq detailed what went wrong in Los Angeles and whether he would have stayed if Phil Jackson was still there.

"The Lakers were like, 'You get Gary [Payton] and Karl [Malone], we'll give you everything you want.' I got Gary and Karl to take less money. When [the contract extension] didn't happen for a couple of months, I knew it wasn't coming. I'm not new to this game. I'd been through it before in Orlando. After the season, I go downstairs to get some cereal with the kids.

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It's like 8 a.m. and the chef wasn't up yet. I'm watching TV and see this report that Phil is out."

"I'm thinking, 'I'm the Diesel, I'm the done dollar and it didn't go down?' For that man to take us to four Finals in five years with all the crap he had to put up with, that's just showing he knows what the hell he is doing. Getting rid of him did not make sense. It didn't make sense.

"I met with Phil four or five days after he got out. We met at a hotel and I told him, 'I love you, I respect you and I miss you.' And he told me, 'I know you got a hard decision. Good luck.' "

Shaq said it didn't make sense

While Shaq did not say he would have chosen to remain a Laker if Jackson wasn't fired, he mentioned he didn't want to play for anyone else in Los Angeles.

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"Phil was the one who took me to the next level, so I'm loyal to him. I didn't want to play for another coach there. That's like me training with a Ninja all my life and then going down to a local karate instructor. It just doesn't make sense. Instead of doing that at the same place, I'd rather go somewhere else and start all over."

Although it took four years, the Zen Master created on-court harmony between O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. That led to three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002, but just as Jackson created another dynasty, everything fell apart after the Lakers were stunned by the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals.

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On June 17, 2004, Kobe Bryant opted out of his contract and became a free agent. That same day, Shaq' demanded a trade from the Lakers. Coincidentally, that was also the day Dr. Jerry Buss told Phil Jackson that he wouldn't return as head coach for the 2004-05 season.

The Lakers rehired Phil Jackson in 2005

Only 361 days after the breakup, the Lakers rehired Phil Jackson as head coach in an unexpected move. At that time, Jackson was also pursued by the New York Knicks, the team he played for 12 seasons and won championships with back in 1970 and 1973.

"This is something I never thought could possibly happen," Jackson said in a news conference where he was announced as the Lakers' new head coach.

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 "It's a pleasure to come back."

The Lakers went 34-48 in their first season without Jackson and Shaq, their worst campaign in 11 years. But while the Lakers missed the playoffs in 2005, Shaq led the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost to the Pistons. Meanwhile, O'Neal finished runner-up to Steve Nash in the MVP voting that season.

In Jackson's first season back, the Lakers went 45-37 and were 7th in the Western Conference. They lost to the Phoenix Suns 4-3 in the first round. Meanwhile, Shaq helped Dwyane Wade win the Heat's first championship in 2006, showing he could win without the "ninja" who mentored him to get to the next level. 

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