Last night while watching the Finals I couldn't help but to feel a certain presence—a massively large one, at that.
It's been looming over this entire series. What could it be?
It's not Optimus Prime from all the promos for Transformers 2—but similar to Optimus, it is a Diesel.
Shaq-Diesel to be exact. That's right, the big daddy.
The reasons are evident. He has donned the jersey of both franchises in this series. He took O-town to their first finals (and got swept). He, along with Kobe, took LA to a few NBA Finals and picked up three rings while he was at it. And still Kobe is searching for the light out from underneath the shadow the Diesel casts.
These are the current facts as of today. Shaq minus Kobe plus Wade equals championship. Kobe minus Shaq plus who anyone not Shaq equals zero championships. I know it's harsh, but it's true. However, this year could possibly change that.
With all those factors accounted for, what if the Lakers had traded Kobe instead of Shaq back then?
Now before you start to go off and tell me how great Kobe is—which he is—just consider what is important to you if you were a franchise owner. Is it the bottom line as far as dollars? Is it the future? Or is it the quantity of championship rings obtained on your watch? For me that's the only thing it's about.
Now if I were running the Lakers when the whole Shaq vs. Kobe thing exploded, I would have strongly considered trading Bryant over O'Neal for a few reasons.
I know that at the time what you had were two extremely talented individuals. One was coming into his own (Kobe) and the other (Shaq) was near the top of his game with decline sure to come.
I have always said great big men are a rarity. Especially in today's game, just look around—almost every team in the league needs a presence down low. Guards are everywhere. Granted, not all are like Kobe, but there are far more talented guards than centers.
I personally would have traded Bryant back then and gotten another highly-talented guard in return, possibly accompanied with another player as well or even another very high draft pick.
The Lakers could have easily traded Bryant away for a guy like Ray Allen. He is another highly-skilled guard who could shoot lights out. Coupled with Shaq, I strongly believe that they could have won another ring the year following the trade.
Ray Allen is not Kobe. Please don't think that is what I am insinuating. But at that time Kobe wasn't really Kobe. Well at least not the Kobe we know today. He was Shaq's Kobe. You know, little brother—the exact moniker that Kobe has been trying to shake for years now. Ray Allen was expected to be the man for both franchises he played for at that time (the Bucks and the Sonics). On the Lakers, that would not have been the case.
Shaq would have still been the man, Ray would have played his role to a tee. He would have undoubtedly flourished into a bigger star than he is now. Playing in LA will kind of do that for a player. He also would have been able to put on a championship ring a lot sooner than he did.
In the end, it's all just a big what if. However I do believe if it had happened, LA would have at least two championships more than what they have right now. That's not to say that Allen is better than Kobe it just would have been a better choice for a Laker GM at that time given those circumstances.
Again, please don't forget that Shaq was not the Shaq you know today. He was the Diesel. In their last Finals appearance together, vs. Detroit, Shaq averaged 26 and 10. Kobe only averaged 22 points a game in that Finals.
The next three years after that would see the Spurs, the Heat, and the Spurs again claim the title. The Heat would not have won that if Shaq wasn't there. He wasn't the man there but he was huge at opening it up for Wade's game to blossom. And that year they beat the Mavs. If Shaq were in LA with Allen, I feel they would have taken the Mavs in the Conference Finals that year.
As for the two San Antonio championships, I feel that LA, with Shaq and Allen, could have beaten the Spurs in at least one of those two conference championships and went on to defeat at least one of the two teams that the Spurs beat (either the Pistons in 2005 or the Cavs in 2007).
In the end, as a GM, it's all about how many banners you hang up while the team is on your watch. I'm simply saying that two is more than one—and at that time I think that a Shaq and Allen combo would have yielded two banners as opposed to the one that Kobe is likely to hang up this year.