Kobe, Shaq and Phil: The Other Side

By Joe Booker
Updated: June 3, 2005

Who Makes Decisions For The Lakers?

HOUSTON, TX—Let’s look at the situations that happened between Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and Shaquille O’Neal from the other side. Look at it from a profession point of view and not take it personal. The fact is Lakers owner Jerry Buss made the decision to trade O’Neal and not bring Jackson back. Kobe didn’t make that decision. He may have influence, but not that much.

It was a bad decision by Buss not to bring O’Neal and Jackson back.

O’Neal and Kobe did not have to get along to win. They won three titles together and did not hang out together. Kobe never liked the Triangle offense, but they won. The late former Yankees manager Billy Martin and the New York Yankees fought each other almost every day, but they won championships. It is about winning and not about being friends, going out to lunch and to clubs together.

O’Neal reportedly wanted a three year contract worth around $90 million. When a player is over 30 and having injury and weight problems it is not a decision that is made on the spur of the moment.

Think back to the playoffs when Larry Browns’ Detroit Pistons dumped the Lakers in five games of the Finals with Shaq and Kobe in the Lakers lineup. In the meantime, Shaq allegedly demanded $90 million from Buss. Kobe no longer wanted to be a part of the Lakers if he had to play for Phil and alongside of Shaq and hinted he would sign with the LA Clippers. He did not ask Buss to trade Shaq and not to keep Jackson. It is also alleged that Kobe had no intention of leaving the Lakers that he used the ploy to get a new contract with the Lakers.

Buss had to make a decision that he felt was the best interest for the future of his franchise even if it meant not signing the most dominate player in the game and the most successful coach in the NBA. It didn’t matter with Buss that the coach was his daughter’s boyfriend.

It was Buss who decided he did not want to renew O’Neal’s contract and not Kobe’s decision. Buss was recently quoted as saying if O’Neal had been in the shape he is in now he would have renewed his contract. O’Neal is said to have asked the Lakers to trade him and he was obliged. If O’Neal had gotten his $90 million he and Kobe would have been teammates.

In Jackson’s situation, it is alleged that Buss felt Jackson was asking for too much money and Buss did not feel comfortable paying Jackson that kind of money. It is also alleged that Buss felt Jackson had lost control of the team. Jackson did nothing to try and resolve the Kobe and Shaq differences.

Buss’s refusing to pay him what he wanted is rumored to be the reason for Jackson’s departure. I am not taking sides, just stating allegations. It is not a matter if they were true. The fact is that O’Neal and Jackson are not with the Lakers.

Kobe could not win a title without Shaq. Can Shaq win a title without Kobe? Can Dwayne Wade team with Shaq and lead Miami to a title as Kobe did with Shaq?

I am not in a position to tell a billionaire how to spend his money, but I can speak my personal opinion. I think Buss was in left field when he decided not to give O’Neal the $90 million. Yes that is a lot of loot. But it was O’Neal that helped make the Lakers the most dominant team in the game. Buss should have done like George Steinbrenner of the Yankees and put the money back into the team. Shaq helped Buss rake in all those millions when they were winning championships.

Back to the Kobe, Shaq and Jackson soap opera. Did Jackson complain about Kobe’s play when they were winning titles? Did Jackson complain about Kobe when Kobe hit 17-game winning shots a feat no other NBA player did that year and Shaq was missing free throws? Kobe and Shaq never hung out together. Did Jackson begin to point fingers when the team lost in the finals to Detroit? Was Jackson looking for a scapegoat?

Jackson Has Never Built a Team From Ground Up.

Jackson did take a young Bulls team that was not going anywhere and won championships but he had the benefit of Michael Jordan, the best player to ever play the game. He didn’t exactly start from scratch. He got Scottie Pippins and Dennis Rodman. Could he have won championships in Chicago without Jordan?

Michael Jordan made Jackson a great coach. Kobe and Shaq made Jackson a great coach. He did not win when Jordan left the team. He did not win the last year in LA, even though he had Shaq and Kobe. He was rumored to have taken Shaq’s side over Kobe. Taking sides with players over others can divide a team. Did this help divide the Lakers and give the Pistons, a team with lesser talent the title?

A team can be built without superstars if it has good coaching. Check out Larry Brown and Detroit.

I am not saying by any means that Phil is not a great coach. His record proves he is a great coach. Some may question how he handedly the Kobe and Shaq situation. In fact, he stayed out of it.

Why does Phil want to coach the Lakers again? Doesn’t he realize that Kobe is still on the team? Didn’t he say in his book that Kobe was uncoachable? Does he still want to trade him?

The next time anyone accuses Kobe for getting rid of Jackson and O’Neal, check and see who holds the check book