How Lakers acquired Kobe Bryant & Shaquille O’Neal in one Summer? Exploring the incredible story of two legends becoming teammates

When we travel back to the historic year of 1996, the Los Angeles Lakers were about to unleash their electric potential and the basketball realm was teeming with anticipation. They had a talented young nucleus and had advanced to the postseason the previous two seasons, but they wanted to go closer to challenging for the championship.

In order to do this, the LA Lakers and its management chose to seek an unrestricted free agent. A champion who was about to enter his prime and was one of the league’s most dominant players.

The story of the Lakers acquiring Kobe Bryant & Shaquille O’Neal in one Summer

But, the team’s pay ceiling was too tight, and Shaq, then 24 years old, was expected to demand a record-breaking sum. The team was conducting draught workouts in this setting. The Lakers invited Kobe in for a workout and put up Michael Cooper, a previous defensive player of the year, as a tough opponent to test the maturity of the 17-year-old Bryant.

What followed persuaded Lakers management that Kobe was a potential star. Kobe’s exercise was impressive, but the Lakers didn’t have a great chance of drafting him. They held the 24th pick, thus it was nearly a guarantee that he would be selected much earlier. The team used this chance to transform their payroll cap issue into an opportunity.

The team’s starting center, a first-round pick in 1989, and longest-tenured Laker was Vlade Divac. The Lakers thus attempted to achieve two objectives at once. They had the opportunity to select Kobe by exchanging Vlade for the top draught pick imaginable, and they also had enough cap room left over to sign Shaq.

The Charlotte Hornets, who chose Kobe with the 13th pick on behalf of the Lakers, served as their trading partner. With the 24th pick, the Lakers also acquired a future championship player. Shaquille “The Big Aristotle” O’Neal three weeks later ended up signing a seven-year deal with the Lakers.

What happened between Kobe Bryant & Shaquille O’Neal?

Robert “Big Shot Rob” Horry is a three-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers. He claimed that Phil Jackson was to blame for the infamous hostility between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. He believed Phil Jackson sparked the conflict.

He frequently said something like this following team practice, “Kobe said this about Shaq, and Shaq said that about Kobe.”…We saw them together, jumping on one another the day before, so we couldn’t understand how that could have happened. Phil preferred when there was some form of confrontation.


Throughout his career, “Zen Master” Jackson was a strategist who routinely used the media to influence his players in both Los Angeles and Chicago. This is well known, however, Horry’s assertion that he initiated the dispute is a rather bold one. This was the first instance of a “tiff” between the two players that was officially recorded.

Phil Jackson was temporarily retired and most likely thousands of miles away from the warm confines of Southern California, if this slap catalyzed the conflict between Kobe and Shaq. 

The events in the following slides (concerning the role Phil “Action” Jackson played in the entire Shaq/Kobe fight) are immaterial, though, because the same franchise no longer employed the three players. The LA Lakers and their legacy serve as a poignant reminder that success is not the result of a single flash of inspiration but rather the complex interaction of talent, willpower, and the human spirit.

What are your thoughts on the acquisition of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal by the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996, and the subsequent conflict between the two players? Let us know your opinion.


Kushal Shinde

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