Years ago, Shaquille O’Neal made the decision to know his worth and add tax, ultimately leading him to the NBA team that would help to solidify his legacy as one of the greatest players of all time.
At just 24-years-old, a young Shaq was already well on his way to becoming one of the most powerful forces in the league’s history.
Not only did he have the athleticism to match his talent, but he also had the wits to know when he deserved more, which led him to a free-agent signing that would make history.
Making NBA History
In 1996, he shifted the entire NBA landscape when he left the Orlando Magic to join the Los Angeles Lakers. His departure from the team is still being mirrored in big decisions made in the league today.
According to CBS, while a maximum salary cap of $24.3 million did exist at the time, there was no max salary and no luxury tax penalty present in the league.
What this means, is that as the owner of Shaq’s Bird’s rights, Orlando had the opportunity to exceed the cap in order to re-sign Shaq, a player who was already on their team roster.
Knowing His Worth
Instead, they offered him a deal that he felt was a lowball offer.
Shaq was offered four years and a $54 million contract, but the Orlando team wasn’t the only group to question the young basketball player’s talent. In fact, things even took an interesting turn within the local media.
The Poll That Changed It All
A poll was set up by the Orlando Sentinel that asked the question: “Is Shaquille O’Neal worth $150 million?”
The response was overwhelming for Shaq who took the poll as “a slap in the face.”
It wasn’t long before he decided to take his talents to the west coast. On July 18, 1996, Shaq signed a free-agent deal with the LA Lakers that came with a seven-year contract worth $120 million.
“The media in Orlando kind of bashed me so much, I just kinda stopped reading the paper my second year,” said Shaq at the time that the infamous poll came out, where more than 90 percent of the readers said that the $150 million was too much. “When I read something in the paper like that? Doesn’t make me weak, makes me strong. I like to prove people wrong.”
Proving 'Em Wrong
And prove people wrong he did.
When he joined the Lakers, Shaq teamed up with a teenage sensation who would soon be known to the world as the beloved Kobe “Bean” Bryant.
The pair were led by the legendary Phil Jackson and went on to win three of their 17 NBA championships.
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