Shaquille O'Neal: Still Haunted by Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IAugust 5, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 13:  Shaquille O'Neal #33 of the Cleveland Cavaliers waits to shoot a free throw in the fourth quarter against the Boston Celtics during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA playoffs at TD Garden on May 13, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeated the Cavaliers 94-85.  NOTE TO USER: User Expressly Acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers have always been the type of franchise that attracts players due to tradition, but there are some rare players who leave the team and find success elsewhere.

Shaquille O'Neal is one of those players, and although O'Neal did go on to win a championship as a member of the Miami Heat, any chance he had for a great legacy was left in Los Angeles.

The Boston Celtics announced they have signed O'Neal to a two-year deal, which will make this the fifth time in his career he has changed teams, and the fourth since he decided to leave Los Angeles.

That's quite a track record for a player who is considered to be the most dominant center of the past decade, but in reality, O'Neal's career has been in decline since his rift with Kobe Bryant.

O'Neal's size, strength, and quickness hid the fact he never took the steps to become a complete player, and he has always seemed much more concerned with his image than his game.

Pride and ego prevented O'Neal from realizing that Bryant had surpassed him as the primary focus of the Lakers' team, but if he had a little more humility, his career would have a much different feel than it does now.

O'Neal has become the ultimate NBA journeyman, but his presence has been much more hype than substance since he has been unable to lead a team anywhere in recent years.

In all honesty, O'Neal's championship in Miami was won on the merits of Dwyane Wade, and O'Neal became the complimentary player he was so desperately opposed to being in Los Angeles.

After burning bridges in Miami, O'Neal proceeded to do the same in Phoenix as each subsequent stop was another failed experiment for both O'Neal and whatever team was unlucky enough to receive his services.

Phoenix's gamble on O'Neal actually changed the entire course of the franchise, and the Suns have only recently recovered from their ill-fated decision to bring O'Neal to the desert.

Bryant now appears to be the clear victor in a war that included vicious verbal attacks from both players, and his legacy will likely shine much brighter than O'Neal's in the annals of NBA history.

It didn't have to be this way.

The Lakers could have potentially been one of the most dominant teams of all time, and Bryant and O'Neal could have been the best duo the game has ever seen.

If cooler heads had prevailed, nine championships would have not been out of the question, and O'Neal would likely be approaching retirement with his legacy intact.

Instead, O'Neal has been forced to watch Bryant win two more championships in his absence, and eclipse the center in career championships and relevance to the game.

While O'Neal has been trying to find a team that could use his size and eroding skills, Bryant has been steadily crafting a legacy as one of the greatest and most loved Lakers of all time.

O'Neal would have definitely been one of the more loved figures in Lakers' history due to his personality and playful attitude, but his inability to swallow his pride doomed that future.

The Celtics actually may have saved O'Neal from a forced retirement, since few teams were knocking down his door for a chance to sign him.

So O'Neal is left to chase another title with yet another team, while Bryant basks in the security and success the Lakers have provided him throughout his career.

I'm sure O'Neal at times casts an envious eye towards Bryant and the Lakers, and it's easy to imagine at least a little regret on O'Neal's part for his decision to pass up a shot at forever being a Lakers' great.