Shaquille O’Neal says he regrets leaving Magic for Lakers

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Shaquille O’Neal was inducted into the Orlando Magic Hall of Fame on Friday, and the ceremonies evidently had him feeling all kinds of sentimental.

O’Neal began his career in Orlando, but bolted in free agency for the Lakers after only four seasons.

He expressed regret over the decision, even though all of his greatest career achievements — the four championships, three Finals MVP trophies and one league MVP award — didn’t come until after he was gone.

From Kyle Hightower of the Associated Press:

“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 said the DeVos family deserves “a couple” of championships and that the Magic’s 1995 Finals team, which also featured a core of Penny Hardaway and Anderson, had a chance to get back.

“That’s why I kind of regret it, because we had a young, fabulous team,” O’Neal said. “We really did. And it’s a shame that we got torn apart. But I think about that all the time. I try not to live my life now on ‘ifs’ or ‘would’ve, should’ve,’ but do I regret leaving here in ’96, yes I do.” …

“I wish I would have had more patience,” he said. “I wanted to be protected from the bashing. What I mean by that is I wanted to win then. Even when I got (to Los Angeles) I still got bashed, it took four years to win. But I was very impatient. I was very young and I thought that if I go there, with those guys out there I could win right away and that wasn’t the case.

O’Neal was able to leave after his first contract, and the league later changed free agency rules to allow for restricted free agency, where the team that originally drafted a player could match any offer he received.

The Magic undoubtedly would have done so where O’Neal was concerned, but either way, it’s nice to hear him speak positively of the franchise where he got his NBA start.

[via Sporting News]