Four-time NBA champion Shaquille O’Neal issued a stark warning to the Los Angeles Lakers Monday, saying despite an abysmal season, it would be a huge mistake to trade the team’s biggest superstar, Lebron James.
“If you trade LeBron, you’ll never win again,” O’Neal said of the Lakers in an interview with CNBC.
While the NBA trade deadline has passed, James’ contract with the Lakers expires in 2023. Some have suggested that trading James may be the quickest and easiest way to fix the team’s disconnect.
O’Neal himself played eight seasons with the Lakers, leading the team to three championships alongside Kobe Bryant. In 2004, the franchise traded the 7’1 former center to the Miami Heat.
O’Neal, who also serves as an TNT Broadcaster, said Monday the Lakers should be focusing on surrounding James with the right set of players.
“If you put LeBron around the right guys, they are definitely going to win,” he said. “I think whoever put the team together needs to step up and try and fix it.”
The Lakers are currently in 9th place in the Western Conference with a 27-33 record. The team has a 9% chance of qualifying for the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Prediction Model. Sunday night, Lakers fans booed their own team after a 123-95 defeat to the New Orleans Pelicans.
“I’ve been booed before, that was not a good feeling,” O’Neal said.
‘They will continue to work’
Shaq’s comments came at the International Franchise Association’s annual convention, where he also talked to CNBC about his experience as both a franchisee and franchisor of several restaurants.
The former All-Star owns nine Papa John franchises and one Krispy Kreme franchise. He’s also the co-owner and franchisor of a rapidly growing chicken restaurant called “Big Chicken.”
“I learned from the great Magic Johnson that it’s okay to be a superstar basketball player, but at some point you want to go and invest in businesses,” O’Neal said. “As a simple model, if it works and you follow the rules, they will continue to work.”
O’Neal wouldn’t disclose his franchise’s profits. He’s gotten out of several franchises over the years including locations of Auntie Anne’s, Five Guys and 24 Hour Fitness. Just this year, O’Neal said, he was forced to shutter his L.A. restaurant, Shaquille’s, amid the Covid pandemic.
According to the IFA, franchise growth is expected to stabilize in 2022, expanding by 2.2% to reach a total of 792,014 franchise establishments nationally. The group has also found that franchising encourages higher rates of entrepreneurship among women, non-white business owners and underrepresented groups — 26% of franchises are owned by people of color.
“With the franchise business, if you stick to the core values of what’s being taught, a lot of times you can’t go wrong,” O’Neal said.