Shaquille O’Neal: “If Karl Malone Doesn’t Get Hurt, I’m Still A Laker”


Feb 15, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; NBA former players Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley and Karl Malone after the 2014 NBA All Star dunk contestat Smoothie King Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

“The Mailman” Karl Malone accomplished a multitude of amazing things throughout his career with the Utah Jazz. Perhaps the only hill left unclimbed during Malone’s time with the franchise was that which led to the Jazz winning an NBA championship. In order to procure that elusive ring, Malone joined up with the Los Angeles Lakers prior to the 2003-04 season.

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Alas, the Hollywood combination of Malone, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and “The Glove” Gary Payton were felled by the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals when Malone was eventually forced to sit with a knee injury.

In a recent feature on the team by Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report, Shaq reveals that if it weren’t for that injury to the Mailman, he may still be a part of the organization today

"“If I had one wish, I wish we could have gotten those guys a couple years earlier. Karl was older. GP was older. Wish we could have gotten them towards the end of their prime. And you know, I think we would have won that series. And then, if Karl doesn’t get hurt, I’d probably still be a Laker to this day.”"

You get a sense from the piece, as well as quotes from other Lakers over the years, that Malone was truly the glue that held that team together. It’s unfortunate that a misdiagnosis of his knee injury may have cost Malone and the Lakers their title, as well as the Mailman’s chance at eclipsing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s all-time scoring mark.

Despite Shaq’s penchant for the theatrical, I think his decree rings true. While the NBA world had clearly missed the mark on the “underdog” Pistons, the Lake Show definitely would have packed a greater punch with a healthy Malone in the lineup. Unfortunately, we’ll never really know what could have been for Malone, the Lakers or Shaq if the injury had not occurred.

Nonetheless, Malone remains arguably the greatest power forward in the history of the game and a Utah Jazz legend.

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