When the Los Angeles Lakers were in the midst of winning three straight NBA titles in the early 2000s, I could have never dreamed that Shaquille O’Neal, the Lakers legend who powered those titles along with the late, great Kobe Bryant, would prefer to watch the Warriors play over his beloved Lakers.
For those that don’t know, the Warriors were an NBA afterthought at the time (or maybe a “never-thought,” if that’s a thing).
But here we are. O’Neal recently proclaimed as much, and it’s because of one man: Warriors superstar Stephen Curry.
Also, it’s because the Lakers are struggling to keep pace with Curry’s Warriors, and the entire NBA is looking up at Curry as he’s set to break the NBA’s mark for most made 3-pointers of all time.
Here’s O’Neal’s comment along with some background info for his statement, courtesy of TMZ.
The Lakers — who suffered an embarrassing loss to a Grizzlies team without Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks on Thursday — fell to 13-13 on the season. The Lake Show is currently in 7th place in a top-heavy Western Conference, while the Warriors — who Shaq prefers to watch — have the best record in the NBA.
“I don’t celebrate seventh place at all,” [said O’Neal.] I celebrate Steph Curry. I’ll go to Golden State and watch him play.”TMZ/The Big Podcast with Shaq
This is unbelievable and believable at the same time for longtime Warriors fans. Curry’s brilliance has taken over in the NBA this season, that’s clear. But back in the day, one would never guess the Warriors would be the darlings of the league.
Golden State has already held that title before, too, when the franchise went to five consecutive NBA Finals at the tail end of the last decade, winning three. After superstar Kevin Durant left the Warriors following the 2019 season, however, many thought Curry would be rendered toothless without his high-profile running mate.
And boy, were they wrong. That’s what’s fueling this current Curry love fest. He’s proven he’s an all-time great and can lead a team by himself. Of course, it was silly to believe otherwise, considering his title run in 2015 without Durant and the Warriors’ rise to prominence that preceded it, but that was the perception.
We can add Lakers superstar LeBron James to this scenario as well. He lost three times to the Warriors in the NBA Finals as a member of the Cavaliers. He beat Golden State’s 73-win team in 2016 in a testament to his greatness, but overall, the Warriors have damaged his legacy in a major way, led by Curry.
So much so, in fact, that O’Neal doesn’t even want to watch James’ Lakers at all. It’s a celebration of Curry and NBA greatness early on in the 2021-22 season. With the Warriors’ record only rivaled by the Suns as we approach Christmas, one can only wait to see if Curry’s Warriors can add on to their legacy and continue to leave their contemporaries behind.