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Steve Kerr on His 2008 Trade for Shaquille O’Neal: “It Was a Bad Move”

The Warriors coach explains why the swing-for-the-fences deal didn’t work out

Steve Kerr Getty Images/Ringer illustration

In February 2008, Steve Kerr was the GM of the Phoenix Suns, and he made a monster move: trading for a nearly-36-year-old Shaquille O’Neal. Though O’Neal played at about the same level he had before being traded, the move didn’t work out, and the Suns were bounced by the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. On Part 2 of Kerr’s mailbag episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast—which will drop Friday—the current Warriors coach explained why the move didn’t work out. Here’s a sneak peak of that conversation.

Listen to the Part 1 of the podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Kerr: In retrospect, it was a bad move.

Simmons: Oh, I’m surprised! I would have thought you would have defended it.

Kerr: No, no. I’m not here to save my reputation. We went for it. We swung for the fences, but we disrupted what we had built. We made it for the wrong reasons.

Simmons: A little bit of it was financial, right?

Kerr: No, no. It was not financial, because we picked up Shaq’s deal, which was enormous. He had the same number of years as [Shawn] Marion. So it was not a financial deal, it was a swing-for-the-fences deal. I was a young GM. It’s the kind of move that, yeah, you go for it, but you’re compromising the long-term health of the franchise. That was a mistake. The reasons for making it were not sound. We knew we weren’t good enough to win the whole thing. We’d been in it for several years. Kept losing to the Spurs. But it was a rushed, sort of home run swing that we struck out with. We went for it, which is admirable, but I just think we compromised our identity.

Simmons: So you learned a lesson from that one?

Kerr: Yeah, I did.

Simmons: I still think if Tim Duncan misses that stupid 3 he made in Game 1, you might have won that series.

Kerr: Eh, the best team always wins, I think, in a seven-game series.

This post was updated after publication to reflect that the second part of the conversation is not yet live.