There have been many theories and rumors as to why the Los Angeles Lakers and Shaquille O’Neal decided to part ways and end a high profile relationship. While there has been many rumors that seem to make sense, the best information comes from those who lived through the situation and Phil Jackson was right at the top.
While he hasn’t spoken much about the break up of the Lakers dynasty, he recently spoke about it at an MIT panel in Boston and noted that Shaq and his role as the class clown played a pivotal part in the breakup of the dynasty. Jackson even throws in a reference to a tense but wildly successful dynasty with the Chicago Bulls.
“Shaq didn’t work at it. Michael was able to succeed despite all kinds of limitations in his game. He couldn’t hit an outside shot. He couldn’t defend. But all of that went away because of his work ethic. Kobe saw that as a pinnacle that he had to reach, and he took it to a whole new level. … Shaq had a clown role he had to play. So that was part of the rift.”
We all knew that Shaq was — and still is — a giant goof but it apparently didn’t rub everyone the right way. It’s one thing to be a goof on a TNT pregame show, and it’s another thing to be a goof while people are working hard to be at the top of their profession.
He was no Dennis Rodman, but Jackson never blamed the flamboyant Rodman for being a distraction the way he’s calling out Shaq so many years later.
[H/T: Sean Highkin, For The Win]