"Revisionist History" About the Shaquille O'Neal TradeSeveral national writers and broadcasters have declared that, despite the "revisionist history" that is being bandied about now, Kobe Bryant did in fact play a major role in the Lakers' decision to trade Shaquille O'Neal. The truth is that Lakers owner Jerry Buss' recent statement that he told Bryant in 2004 that he was not going to re-sign O'Neal no matter whether Bryant--then a free agent--elected to stay with the Lakers or not is not "revisionist history" but simply a repetition of we already knew--or should have known. The facts about the O'Neal situation were public knowledge at least two years ago, as Phil Jackson told ESPN's Jim Gray, "Kobe was maligned during the course of the year last year...he had to shoulder so much of the blame of the breakup of the team--which really was not an accurate statement. I kind of felt like this kid needs a break." Later in the interview, Jackson added, "I think that it was all financial. Emotionally, relation-wise, spiritually, Kobe and Shaq coexisted together even though it was not a great relationship or a happy one but it was certainly as fruitful as any relationship has ever been in the NBA." Jackson's 2005 statement should not have been earth shattering news, because Buss had said the same things a year earlier in the wake of the O'Neal trade. For whatever reason, many people chose to ignore both Buss' initial comments and Jackson's later amplification of those remarks.
The idea that Bryant was the moving force behind the O'Neal trade persists only because many members of the media refuse to acknowledge the truth about the situation--then, after two or three years of not reporting the basic facts, they have the gall to say that any disavowal of Bryant's role in the O'Neal trade is "revisionist history."
There is nothing wrong with journalists not accepting pat answers and trying to dig deeper to find the truth--but Buss, Jackson and Bryant all have said that Bryant had nothing to do with O'Neal being traded and O'Neal himself has said that he believes this to be true. In the absence of hard evidence to the contrary, it is simply irresponsible for those who cover the NBA to disregard the public statements of the involved parties and essentially call them liars. That is not objective reporting; it is slanting the truth to serve one's own opinions or agenda. It is one thing to say that Bryant should have done more to persuade Buss to re-sign Shaq; reasonable people can disagree about that, although it is difficult to understand what Bryant could have done when Buss flat out stated that he would not keep Shaq whether Bryant stayed or left. However, it is another thing entirely to persist in reporting that Bryant "broke up" the team when there is no concrete evidence to support that assertion.
posted by David Friedman @ 5:05 PM