Those of us who live in the Los Angeles area, and enjoy the NBA, have had ringside seats for all of the drama (and melodrama) that surrounds the Los Angeles Lakers. I bring that up because, it seems to me, the episode that culminated with Shaquille O'Neal leaving the Lakers is relevant to this Cruisers Forum discussion.
Shaq was a mighty force on the Lakers - indeed, it was considered "Shaq's Team," just as the Bulls were "Michael Jordan's Team." No one could imagine that the Lakers could ever part with such a vital part of the team - but they did. Now it's "Kobe Bryant's Team."
How is this relevant? Shaq, though he was the highest-paid player in the league at the time at $20m+/year and two years remaining on his contract
, wanted an immediate two-year contract
extension at $30m/year. In the 2003 pre-season training camp in Hawai'i, during a practice game
, Shaq had done something he thought was especially great and as he trotted back to the defensive end, he looked into the stands at Jerry Buss, owner of the Lakers.
"Now you gonna pay me?" he loudly challenged Dr. Buss. At the end of that season, the Lakers traded him to Miami
, and thousands of fans were irate with the Lakers, particularly with Kobe Bryant (another player), Mitch Kupchak (General Manager) and Phil Jackson (coach). Few ever mentioned the team's owner, Dr. Jerry Buss.
What's the point? Well, it seems to me that Kupchak, the "administrator" of the Lakers, and Jackson and his coaching staff, the "moderators" of the team, and Bryant, another "registered member" were all publicly taken to task for Shaq's departure, but all of them enjoyed their positions with the team at the pleasure of Jerry Buss, the "site owner." Only Dr. Buss actually had any skin in the game
Shaq had gone public in a very big way. He may have thought he was more important than anyone else on the team, or he may not have cared if he had to join another team, but he had dramatically drawn a deep line in the sand, placing the Lakers owner and his GM and coaches in difficult positions.
Shaq had willingly signed a binding contract when he joined the Lakers, so he knew the "rules," and the team's owner had fulfilled all of his responsibilities under that contract. But when Dr. Buss (through his General Manager) asserted his rights under that contractual agreement and enforced the rules that the contract delineated, Shaq soon found himself playing on another team.
The moral of the story: It's awesome to be the most dominant player in the league, respected by all of your peers and even idolized by some, but if someone else owns the team, you're just passing through.
PS: Until they moved to Staples Center in 1999, the Lakers had played their home games (for 31 years) at the Fabulous Forum