Video: Don Nelson Says Knicks Fired Him for Wanting Patrick Ewing Trade for ShaqJune 25, 2019
Don Nelson only coached one season with the New York Knicks, but his suggestion that eventually got him fired might have altered the course of the franchise.
On Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, the former NBA coach discussed telling ownership to trade Patrick Ewing for Shaquille O'Neal:
"It cost me my job," Nelson said. "I said, 'You need to trade Patrick Ewing and you need to trade him right away. There's a guy by the name of Shaquille O'Neal that's available and would love to come to New York. We can jump in there and beat the Lakers out and get this guy and we should do it.' And of course it got back to Ewing and I was toast."
Nelson spent part of the 1995-96 season with the Knicks, leading the team to a 34-25 record before being replaced by Jeff Van Gundy.
Ewing was easily the team's biggest star at the time, earning his 10th All-Star selection that year. However, he only made one more All-Star team for the rest of his Hall of Fame career, and the franchise was never able to bring home a championship during his time with the team.
The Knicks' deepest playoff run came in 1999 when Ewing went down with an Achilles injury.
Meanwhile, Shaq's career was blossoming with the Orlando Magic. He left in free agency that summer and eventually signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, where he won three of his four NBA titles.
It's unknown whether O'Neal would have stayed in New York after 1996 or if he could have put the team over the top for a championship, but the past two decades could've been different for two of the biggest franchises in the NBA.
At the very least, it's clear Nelson wasn't idiotic for suggesting the idea and likely shouldn't have been fired for it.