Shaquille O’Neal, a one-time teammate of LeBron James with the Cleveland Cavaliers, hopes James doesn’t follow the trail he blazed toward the end of his career.
“My problem toward the end of my career was I was trying to shut everybody up and I was greedy [for more championships],” O’Neal told ESPN at a pre-draft event Friday night for teenagers from the Y in Brooklyn. “After I got to three [titles], everybody was saying I couldn’t get another. So I got four. After I got the fourth, they were saying I couldn’t get another one.
“So I was trying to make quick stops to get it. Phoenix, Cleveland, Boston.”
Shaq, who won three championships while with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Miami Heat, did not win a title in the final three seasons of his career, spent with Phoenix, Cleveland and and Boston, respectively.
O’Neal doesn’t believe James should chase championships in the remainder of his career, which has spanned 15 seasons for the 33-year-old.
“Somebody told me a long time ago — they said your book is already set [before the later stages of your career]. You can add index pages toward the end, but your book is already set. So LeBron’s book is already set,” O’Neal said. “He done already passed up legends; he done already made his mark — he has three rings. His mentality now is probably: I want to get four before [Golden State Warriors guard] Steph [Curry] does. That’s probably his mentality now.
“But if I was him, I wouldn’t be trying to get four, five and six because it ain’t going to matter. It’s just something else to talk about, something else to add to the pages. He’s a legend, talked about as who is the best between he and Michael Jordan, so he’s set.”
James can become an unrestricted free agent for the third time in his career if he declines a $35.6 million player option with the Cavaliers for next season. He has until 11:59 p.m. on June 29 to do so.
O’Neal said Golden State’s emergence as the preeminent franchise in the league, having won back-to-back championships and three in the last four seasons, makes chasing rings difficult for not only James, but everyone else in the league.
“Golden State turning themselves into a dynasty is making it hard for other teams to compete, so he’s either going to say, ‘I want to get four before [the Warriors] get four’ and do a quick fix, or Cleveland’s going to have to do a lot of phone calls and lot of moves to get him the squad he wants,” O’Neal said. “But it’s going to be difficult. You have three superstars on one team that actually play the right way.
“Even with LeBron [on a roster], if you don’t play the right way, it doesn’t matter.”