The NBA, much like any sports league, contains a multiverse of what ifs that surround how history actually played out — tormenting fanbases forever. What if LeBron James had never left Cleveland? What if Michael Jordan never played baseball? They go on forever, and some of them are so painful, they affect the players themselves. Shaquille O’Neal doesn’t just have one what if that stays with him, he has three, and he told ESPN’s Mike & Mike that if they had gone differently, he “was supposed to have seven rings.”
Shaq won three with Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson and the Lakers, and a fourth with Dwyane Wade and the Heat. To hear him tell it, he should have won back in 1995 against the Houston Rockets with Penny Hardaway and the Magic, a fourth title with the Lakers, and a second with the Heat. So, forgetting about the ripple effect of Shaq changing teams during his career, is he right?
While the Magic were undeniably talented and fun as all hell in ’95, Hakeem Olajuwon was certainly a better player at the time, and had a veteran roster that had just won the title the year before. Also, they had Robert Horry on the squad, which is all but a championship guarantee. To use Shaq’s term, the Magic could have won that series in a “perfect world,” but it’s hard to say they deserved to win.