Friday, July 8, 2011

Forget "The Decision", Remember the 1996 Lakers

Today is the one year anniversary of LeBron James' "Decision". That was the day that LeBron stomped on Cleveland's heart and took his talents to South Beach to play with the Miami Heat.

People in the sports world are reminiscing over The Decision and the impact it had over the past year (not to mention the impact it will have on the future of the NBA). That's cool, but the only problem I'm having is calling LeBron's decision "the biggest free agent move in sports history" and how Pat Riley reeled off the greatest offseason a GM/President has ever had.

Sorry, but I disagree.

Let's look back to 1996. That year, the Los Angeles Lakers were coming off a pretty good season. They were 53-29, placing them 4th in the Western Conference standings and lost to the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. Remember that this was also the season that Magic Johnson came out of retirement to finish off the season.

The stars of this team? Cedric Ceballos, Nick Van Exel, Vlade Divac, Elden Campbell, George Lynch and Eddie Jones.

In that 1996 offseason, Lakers GM Jerry West went to work. He sent away some of his players for nothing (like Lynch and Anthony Peeler) just to clear up money to sign Shaq. It worked . O'Neal signed for $121M to change coasts and turning the NBA on its ear. This may change, but Shaq is a much bigger figure in the history of the NBA than LeBron is on pace to be.

One of the other salary dumping moves was dealing Vlade Divac (who wouldn't be needed if they did get Shaq) to the Charlotte Hornets for the draft rights to Kobe Bryant. How did that work out?

Let's see: Anthony Peeler, George Lynch, Vlade Divac for Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant? Quite impressive indeed. That turned into three championships combined for Shaq and Kobe and two more Kobe won without Shaq.

Oh ... I forgot to mention that Jerry West used the No. 24 pick in the 1996 NBA Draft to select Derek Fisher out of Arkansas-Little Rock.

Not a shabby offseason.

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