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The Shaq Derby: Lakers Get Their Man

The Road to L.A.

July 19, 1996

THURSDAY, JULY 11--Jerry West meets with Leonard Armato, O'Neal's agent, at West's Bel-Air home from 3 p.m. to a little past 4 p.m. No figures are announced.

"How could Jerry West not make a great pitch?" Armato said. "He's Mr. Clutch, right."

FRIDAY, JULY 12--Lakers make a seven-year, $95.5 million offer to O'Neal that includes an out-clause after three seasons. Deal is for $8.53 million first year and escalates to $18.76 in 2002-3, an average of $13.64 million annually. Armato said teams have until next Friday to bid, and that Orlando is still the front-runner.

"There are two forces working against each other," Armato said. "One force is the desire to reach an agreement expeditiously. The other contravening force is that he is playing for the Dream Team."

SATURDAY, JULY 13--Lakers consider pulling out of deal to sign Dale Davis and eventually another big man but decide to wait. Alonzo Mourning's numbers with Miami Heat believed to be $105 million for seven years.

"I think I should get a little more then that," O'Neal said of Mourning's offer. "Not a lot more, just a little more."

SUNDAY, JULY 14--O'Neal says with Dream Team III in Indianapolis that Magic are first option and that he wants to return.

"[Orlando is the first option] because I played there first, got a big 50,000 square foot house there, own a couple buildings, a couple restaurants there," O'Neal said.

MONDAY, JULY 15--Lakers concede that O'Neal is not likely to sign with them considering Orlando's starting offer, which is reported at $115 million over seven years.

"We have not completely given up hope," Laker spokesman John Black said. "'However, realistically it looks like he'll stay in Orlando."

TUESDAY, JULY 16--Lakers free up additional $3.63 million by trading Anthony Peeler and George Lynch. West flies to Atlanta for Wednesday meeting with Armato and then O'Neal. Sources say Orlando has increased its offer.

"In any negotiation you have to be aware of the competition," said John Gabriel, Orlando's vice-president of basketball operations about the Lakers move. "It also puts us in a position to maybe establish new parameters. We're quite aware of it."

WEDNESDAY, JULY 17--Lakers raise offer to $121 million as West meets with Armato and O'Neal in Atlanta. Orlando's final offer said to be $115 million.

"Orlando had the first bite of the apple and [the Lakers] had the last bite," Armato said. "It's certainly a tough decision. I can tell you it won't be based on money because both sides were relatively close."

THURSDAY, JULY 18--After weighing both offers with Armato early into the morning, O'Neal signs with the Lakers.

"That is probably the most relieved I have ever felt in my life," West said. "In basketball, a lot of players are referred to as stars and the most overused word is superstar. The Los Angeles Lakers have signed a 24-year-old superstar."

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