Kobe Reveals Why He Needed Shaq to Win a Ring After Leaving the Lakers

Shaquille O’Neal’s move to the Miami Heat is widely considered the moment that brought down the curtain on one of the Los Angeles Lakers’ most dominant eras, but Kobe Bryant thinks his former partner in crime’s departure actually helped the team.

O’Neal and Bryant won three titles in a row between 2000 and 2003, but the 4-1 defeat against the Detroit Pistons in 2004 proved to be the last final series in which they shared the court. Continuous behind-the-scenes disagreements between the pair, coupled with then Lakers owner Jerry Buss’s reluctance to hand O’Neal a new contract, saw the center swap Los Angeles for Miami in summer 2004.

GettyImages-115040948 From left: Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal of the Miami Heat celebrate after winning the NBA Finals in 2006. Getty Images

Two years later, Shaq helped the Heat secure a maiden NBA title, proving to be a perfect support act for Dwyane Wade’s rising star.

“I knew you were going to get one, because of the energy, going to Miami, D-Wade, everything that was there,” Bryant said during a Players Only interview on TNT earlier this month. 

“I knew you were going to get that one. So I knew I had to get at least two or three. I wanted you to get that, because I needed that. I wanted that. I wanted people to say, ‘See, see. This is what they’re missing. This is what they gave up for. Kobe should’ve been the one to go.’

“I needed that, I wanted that.”

Bryant’s comments were particularly interesting as O’Neal wasn’t at his dominant best in the 2006 finals, as the Heat came back from 2-0 down to beat the Dallas Mavericks 4-2.

The New Jersey native averaged 13.7 points and 10.2 rebounds in the series, compared with the 35.7 points and the 14.9 rebounds he averaged during the three finals the Lakers won. So often the first violin during his spell in California, O’Neal was firmly relegated to be the supporting act for Wade, who scored 34.7 points per game.

The Lakers, meanwhile, missed out on the playoffs in the first season without Shaq and were eliminated in the first round in the two following seasons. However, they returned to the finals in 2008, losing to the Celtics in six games before winning the title in the next two seasons, including a thrilling 4-3 win against the Celtics in 2010.

Bryant was named MVP in both of those series and credited O’Neal’s departure for the Lakers’ swift return to success, insisting he forced him to up the ante.

“I wanted everybody to hate me and fuel off that, and just come back with so much anger and so much vengeance,” he explained.

“So when you won, right after you won, I went out to the tracks and I ran. I did my conditioning, I did my drills, woke up the next morning and hit my weights, did my 1,000 shots, I did everything humanly possible. But I needed that. I was like, ‘Good.’”