Clippers-Lakers: 5 moments that changed L.A.’s power balance

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May 26, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal laughs on the court before game four of the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The departure of Shaquille O’Neal from L.A. in 2004

For one particular Lakers legend, the departure of Shaquille O’Neal wasn’t all bad. He and Kobe Bryant never got along, and it was blindingly obvious. They could be seen clashing on court in timeouts, they were two alpha-dogs who both wanted to remain as the alpha-dog, and they would need to adjust their personal differences in order to win. Plus, in case it wasn’t clear enough, they’ve both told the media how much they didn’t like each other.

Their partnership was far from being a match made in heaven.

However, the reason why we’re looking back to July 14, 2004, is because Shaq’s departure immediately led to a few down years for the Lakers. Despite his differences with Kobe, they put that aside well enough to win. More importantly, they pulled off a three-peat from 2000-2002.

He was traded the Miami Heat for Caron Butler, Briant Grant, Lamar Odom, and a 2006 1st round draft pick. Unsurprisingly, Shaq, one of the most powerful and overwhelming scorers in NBA history, brought a championship to Miami in his second season there.

Meanwhile, the Lakers were left with Kobe and no center to bulldoze their way to more rings.

For the first time in a decade in the season after O’Neal was traded, the Lakers didn’t make the playoffs. When Shaq left, it became the first major factor since 2000 that plummeted the Lakers from contending status. That’s why it’s so important to the Clippers’ upcoming that would follow a few years later.

The next two seasons, the Lakers failed to make it past the first round. It was the kind of disappointment fans hadn’t experienced in 10 years, and it helped set the stage for the latest great era of Lakers basketball (albeit a fairly short one) with two more championships at the end of the decade. Of course, the Clippers were still getting no where at this point, but there’s no denying this was a major blow for their rival in the mid 2000s.

After those three seasons of no more than a first round exit, the Lakers started coming back. In 2007-08, the upcoming center Andrew Bynum (13.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 blocks per game that year), Lamar Odom (14.2 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.4 assists), and the arrival of Pau Gasol in February, helped Kobe take the team back to the NBA Finals. They ultimately lost to the Boston Celtics 4-2, but went on to win back-to-back championships the following two seasons.

Yet, after their final championship in 2009-10 and a couple more good regular seasons, they began to decline as the Clippers started rising.

Next: The Clippers drafting Blake Griffin