Could West Have Saved Shaq, Kobe in L.A.?
Towards the end of Jerry West’s tenure as the executive vice president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, he spent much of his time dealing with the egos of his two superstar players, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. He said he viewed both players like sons and both players have said in the past he was almost like a second father.
Not long after West left the Lakers, the relationship between O’Neal and Bryant deteriorated and ultimately led the Lakers to trade O’Neal after he screamed, “Pay me!” at Lakers owner Jerry Buss during a preseason game in Hawaii in 2003 while he was seeking a new contract.
Before he signed copies of his new book “West By West, My Tormented Life” at the ESPN Zone in Los Angeles, he told ESPNLosAngeles.com that he didn’t believe his presence would have prevented the messy divorce and that the O’Neal’s trade probably facilitated the team’s last two championships.
“I think when you work for Jerry Buss the thing that’s the greatest about him is he’s not afraid to make tough decisions,” West said. “I think Shaquille put himself in a very precarious position with something he said in Hawaii and they moved on and Kobe Bryant was ready to take center stage.
“To some degree it was almost like when [Kareem] Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson were here. Abdul-Jabbar abdicated his throne for a player who was in the middle of his prime and I think Shaquille’s personality is completely different than Kobe’s personality and by making a tough decision they were able to win a couple more championships. Obviously here in Los Angeles they want you to win but they want you to win at the very highest level.”