Horace Grant was one of the best role players of his generation. In addition to being a key piece during the Chicago Bulls’ first three-peat, he was also a big part of the Lakers 2001 championship team.
In between those titles was an impressive run with a young Shaquille O’Neal and the Orlando Magic that also led to an NBA Finals appearance in 1995.
O’Neal would leave the Magic to join the Lakers following the 1996 season, but Grant believes that there was a chance O’Neal would’ve stay in Orlando. In an interview with Grantland’s Bill Simmons, Grant recalled a missed opportunity at speaking with O’Neal:
You know, he called me and I didn’t return his call before he signed with the Lakers. And to this day I wish I had just answered that call, and maybe he would’ve still been in Orlando.
O’Neal would sign with the Lakers not long after the call, and the rest is history, but it’s an interesting theory to think about.
There is no doubt that Grant’s voice carried a lot of weight during that time, and he definitely would have tried to keep O’Neal in Orlando. And that single move changed the course of the entire NBA.
O’Neal would win three championships with the Lakers and one with the Miami Heat. But if he stays in Orlando, who knows if they could have beaten the Bulls during their last two championship seasons.
Kobe Bryant’s career arc changes as well as Phil Jackson’s. The Spurs, Cavaliers, Pistons, Heat, and Raptors all were affected indirectly by this as well.
It seems crazy to think about in hindsight, but the entire NBA could have been completely different if Grant would have answered his phone.
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