It’s been nearly two decades since Shaquille O’Neal left the Orlando Magic to join the Lakers, in an attempt to win a championship.
Now retired, big Shaq looked back on that moment while being inducted into the Magic’s Hall of Fame on Friday (March 27), acknowledge regrets about leaving his original NBA team.
“It’s unexpected because I came here to win. We won games, and then I made a business decision,” said the big man, who becomes just the third member of the Magic’s hall, alongside co-founder Pat Williams and first-ever draft pick Nick Anderson. “It’s never personal. The [team owner Rich] DeVos family knows that. And, I accomplished [a championship] somewhere else. It’s not like I didn’t think they weren’t going to be upset or anything. But, it’s business. It was all business.
“Do I regret it? I never fully answer it. I regret it sometimes,” Shaq admitted. “Is this where I started and should have stayed? I actually wish they made it a law that whoever drafts you, you gotta stay there your whole career.”
O’Neal arrived in Orlando in 1992, when he was selected with the #1 overall pick. Almost immediately, he became a dominant presence in the league, and would take the Magic to their first NBA Finals appearance in 1995, where they’d eventually fall to the Houston Rockets, then led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler.
When he left for the Lakers, he’d go on to win three of his four NBA championship rings in Los Angeles.
On Friday, he said the Magic had a chance to win those titles with that 1995 team, which also featured a core of Penny Hardaway and Anderson.
“That’s why I kind of regret it, because we had a young, fabulous team,” Shaq said. “We really did. And it’s a shame that we got torn apart. But, I think about that all the time. I try not to live my life now on ‘ifs’ or ‘would’ve, should’ve,’ but do I regret leaving here in ’96, yes I do.”