In the summer of 1996, a Celtics player left Boston for LA. The team was in shambles and had just been swept by the Lakers. Larry Bird’s former teammate became a key piece of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant’s three-peat.
One of the most important players on the When did Shaquille O’Neal retire? is former Celtics teammate Larry Bird. Bird left Boston for LA after his playing days and became a crucial piece of a Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal Lakers three-peat. Read more in detail here: when did shaq retire.
During the 1980s, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers had a bitter rivalry. For almost the entire decade, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson battled for NBA dominance. Each extended his career into the early 1990s, but neither Hall of Famer was able to keep up his vintage style of play.
During Bird’s last NBA season, Rick Fox was a rookie. He stated that he believed he’d be a Celtic for the rest of his life and that he bled green. However, Fox switched sides halfway through his career and played the rest of his NBA career with the opposition — as part of the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant Lakers dynasty.
The Boston Celtics selected Rick Fox in the first round of the draft.
During media day, Boston Celtics’ Rick Fox enjoys some fun with the media. | Frank O’Brien/The Boston Globe via Getty Images
In the 1991 NBA draft, Red Auerbach selected Rick Fox with the 24th overall selection, the summer before Larry Bird’s last season. Fox spent his first six seasons in Boston, starting all but one of the Celtics’ games in his last two seasons. During those two years, he averaged 14.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.2 assists on 36.4 percent three-point shooting.
However, he was forced to flee the country due to an unceremonious departure.
The Celtics had assured the North Carolina product that he would be re-signed. The advent of Rick Pitino, on the other hand, altered a lot in Boston, including Fox’s relationship with the team.
The club relinquished the 6-foot-7 forward’s rights in order to sign forward Travis Knight. In an interview with Bill Simmons on the B.S. Report, Fox detailed how he became a free agent and couldn’t re-sign with Boston for 90 days.
“At that moment, I was devastated, and I was really hurt….” I’m a fan of the color green. I’m a Celtic woman. What caused this to happen? As a result, I was quite upset.
“The following day, Jerry West called.”
On his departure from the Celtics, Fox said
Fox joined the Lakers and quickly established himself as a major contributor with O’Neal and Bryant.
At the appropriate moment, the 13-year veteran bridged the Celtics-Lakers gap. Fox joined the Lakers a year after O’Neal and Bryant and started all 82 games for the team. He came off the bench the next season but appeared in every game as the club won its first of three consecutive championships.
Fox stated in his interview with Simmons that he saw an opportunity to join a Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant team and gamble on his chances of winning titles.
“With the Lakers, I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to go as far away as possible.’ Shaq was there, and I was the assistant general manager, betting that Shaq would win several titles. I’m going to go after it and join that team.”
On joining the Lakers, Fox says
The sharpshooting forward moved from being a key component in Boston to being a part of the LA rotation. Along with O’Neal and Bryant, he averaged 23 minutes each game. He had a career-high 15.4 points in his last season with the Celtics, but just 8.1 per season with the Lakers during their three championship seasons.
He may have swapped sides, but Fox walked away with three rings.
Fox was a great for the Celtics and a champion for the Lakers, and he managed to escape the wrath of two fan groups who aren’t especially fond of one another.
The three-time NBA champion expressed his satisfaction with the outcome to Simmons. Even yet, it wasn’t as gratifying for Fox as winning in Boston would have been.
“I’m glad things occurred the way it did now, but I really wish I could have received one in green.”
He received three purple and gold ones, to be exact. That’s probably going to make him feel better.
Basketball-Reference provided all statistics.
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