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Monday, June 25, 2007

"Revisionist History" About the Shaquille O'Neal Trade

Several 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



At Monday, June 25, 2007 11:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"it is simply irresponsible for those who cover the NBA ..."

No, it would be irresponsible of them to deny themselves a good story and a good way to sell more of their product.
Newspapers are a business. If the information they give you happens to be the truth so be it but it is definitely not a prerequisite.

You said it yourself - that is why blogs can compete with the papers and and succeed.

At Tuesday, June 26, 2007 12:07:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous 2

it aint revisionist history because the people who said kobe was responsible then are saying it now. kobe clearly took a major hit for this and he should partly i thought kobe didnt want to play with shaq at that point in 04 thats why he didnt say to jerrybuss to keep the tea together and he signed with the lkaers the day after shaq got traded like he was waiting for shaq to go.

if what you are saying is right which i dont thinks so kobe should of acted like it hurt for shaq to go he didnt.

At Tuesday, June 26, 2007 2:38:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Jerusalem Joe:

Unfortunately, you are right. Newspapers and other forms of media are much more interested in making money then delivering truth, though publishers, editors and writers claim to espouse journalistic ethics. That is why all the tabloids do so well--because people buy and read that crap. That is why TV news is a joke now, filled with fluff stories about nonsense and riddled with error and bias on the rare occasions that they actually cover something substantive...but I digress.

If some enterprising investigative reporter can dig up some hard evidence that Buss, Jackson and Kobe are not telling the truth about the Shaq deal then he should by all means present it to the world. Otherwise, I'm tired of hearing people say--without any evidence whatsoever--"Yeah, of course Buss and Kobe say that but I don't believe them." That's just garbage, particularly when Buss has a track record of not venturing into luxury tax territory and when Shaq very publicly screamed at him during the previous preseason to pay him (Shaq) his (expletive deleted) money. That did not go over real well with Buss, either.

At Tuesday, June 26, 2007 2:50:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The writers and broadcasters to whom I am referring are calling Buss' recent statement about the Shaq deal--and Kobe's angry denunciation of any suggestion that he chased Shaq away--revisionist history. They are asserting, wrongly, that the story always had been that Kobe was behind the move and that "suddenly" the Lakers are trying to revise history. The reality is that these reporters were never interested in the truth in the first place and have either forgotten or disregarded that Buss and Kobe (and Jackson) have been saying the so called "revised" line from the beginning.

Kobe took a "hit" because Shaq is a lot more popular among members of the media than Kobe is, so as soon as the deal went down everyone went into print or on air blasting Kobe. Kobe always denied that he was behind the trade but he's never been real big on giving interviews and explaining himself; he believes that the truth comes out eventually, apparently. He wrote a piece for Dime Magazine and did a few interviews but that just really is not his thing, whereas Shaq loves the limelight (which plays no small part in why the media, in turn, loves him).

You are the second commenter here who has said that Kobe either should have acted more devastated that Shaq left or should have been less happy at the press conference announcing the arrival of the players the Lakers got for Shaq. Now think about that for a second. What would you honestly think and say if Kobe had come to that press conference with a downcast look on his face and talked about how disappointed he was? You would bury him for not welcoming his new teammates. Once the deal is done and there is no looking back then all Kobe could do is make the best of it. Kobe actually got along quite well with Caron Butler and to this day lists him as one of his favorite teammates.

What Kobe is mad about now is that three years have past and the Lakers have not pulled the trigger on several potential deals that could have improved the team, including trading for Jason Kidd. Kobe feels like his timetable and the Lakers' timetable do not mesh. It would be preferable in an ideal world for all of that to be kept in house but I suspect that Kobe already voiced these concerns in private and did not get a response that he liked.

Someday, about 20 years from now, Shaq and Kobe are going to be on an NBA TV or ESPN Classic show talking about how they could have won six titles together...

At Tuesday, June 26, 2007 11:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anymous 2

oh so your talking about broadcasters now talking about kobe saying buss wasnt going to sign shaq no matter what thing ok. ill always believe that he had the most power to keep it together meaning kobe and if shaq and kobe stayed together spurs have 2 rings not 4. shaq was able to get wade and still compete and win one ring, kobe has not and he has to think i should of helped my situatuion. but if he can get garnett it would make it better but shaq speaks for himself he's always in winnning situation except last year and earlier in his career the prime shaq and motivated shaq like he will be next year is always a winner.

to me kobe was a little too thrilled to see those new guys if he frowned and acted distraght it would help his cause that he really did care when shaq left most of us think he didnt. so i think would help his cause actually.

At Tuesday, June 26, 2007 3:25:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

I think that if Kobe had acted sad or distraught at the press conference when the new guys arrived that Kobe would be blasted by the media even worse than he is now. Can you imagine the Lakers announcing "We are pleased to welcome Lamar Odom, etc." and then the camera cuts to Kobe Bryant glowering in disgust? He would never, ever live that down.

One can theorize or suggest that Kobe should have done more to keep Shaq but the more you think about it the less sense it makes for two reasons: (1) Buss has made it clear that he was trading Shaq no matter what, even if that made Kobe so mad that Kobe would sign with the Bulls or Clippers (a very real possibility at the time); (2) None of us were in the room, so we don't know how much Kobe tried to urge Buss to keep Shaq. Furthermore, Kobe says that he got the impression that the Lakers were going to make every effort to build a strong team soon, so he didn't think that he was signing on for several years as a solo act with no support. If Kobe had known that three years later he would not have another All-Star on his team or a good bench, then he might have said or done something differently.


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