Shaquille O’Neal was inducted into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame on Friday, and he conceded that he has regrets about leaving the team almost two decades ago.
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Shaq opted to leave the organisation in a bid to finally win a championship after failing to do so in his first four seasons with the Magic, and ultimately that decision paid off as he went on to win four rings over the course of his career.
However, he admits now that he may have been too impatient and stressed that the decision was purely business as he didn’t particularly want to leave the team at the time that he did.
“It’s unexpected because I came here to win. We won games, and then I made a business decision. 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,” O’Neal said, as reported by ESPN.
“Do I regret it? I never fully answer it. I regret it sometimes. 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 as a 20-year-old from LSU who was selected with the No.1 overall pick in the 1992 Draft. While he immediately became a dominant presence on the court, he helped the Magic to their first NBA Finals appearance in 1995 and was part of a young and talented team.
However, with the rules different at that time as first-time contract players were allowed to become unrestricted free agents, Shaq made his decision to move to Los Angeles and there was little that Orlando could do to ensure he stayed as he wanted the switch.
Shaq added that even though it didn’t turn out the way he envisaged, he believed that he could move to LA and win immediately. However, with hindsight, he wishes he had been more patient and perhaps stuck with the process in Orlando which could have secured a title for the organisation before he left.