Brian Shaw has lived quite a life in basketball. Hailing from Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High School, he spent more than a decade in the NBA, spending a few seasons here and there before winning three world championships with the Kobe Bryant/Shaquille O’Neal-led Lakers. As a coach, he won two more titles with the Lakers to close out the decade and embarked on a long coaching career thereafter. Though he was never a star, he provided the support that his teams needed to win championships. This is his story.
Brian Shaw was born on March 22, 1966 in Oakland, California. Growing up around star prep players such as Antonio Davis, Jason Kidd and Gary Payton prepared him for a greater road ahead. As a youth, he sharpened his skills in the East Oakland Youth Development Center and by the time he graduated from Bishop O’Dowd High School in 1983, he was a coveted prospect who ultimately decided to accept a scholarship offer from St. Mary’s College of California.
Things didn’t pan out in Moraga and he transferred to UC Santa Barbara for his final two years of college. After averaging 13.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.1 assists, Brian Shaw earned the PCAA Player of the Year award. He was drafted 24th overall in the 1988 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics, thus beginning a long journey in the NBA.
In his first year with the Celtics, Shaw averaged 8.2 points, 5.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game while starting in 54 games. With Larry Bird’s career on the decline, the team wasn’t the championship contender it had once been and lost in the first round of the playoffs. Brian Shaw was not in Boston the following year, having elected to play in Italy to sharpen his skills. He returned to Boston for the 1990-1991 season and it quickly became apparent that his year away from the NBA was put to good use. He averaged 13.8 points, 7.6 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game in his first year back in America.
In 1991-1992, Shaw split time between Boston and the Miami Heat who were in their fourth year of existence. In 46 games with the Heat that first season, Brian Shaw scored seven points per game while the Heat reached their first postseason, losing to the Chicago Bulls in the first round. In his first full season in Miami the following year, he averaged 7.3 points, 3.5 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game. April 8, 1993, he made a then-NBA record 10 three-pointers against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Tragedy struck his family after the season. On June 26, 1993, both of his parents and his sister were killed in a tragic car accident in Nevada. Only his sister’s daughter survived the crash and he spent much of his time raising her. In ensuing years, he would suffer through guilt as he would continually blame himself for their deaths. Some days he believed that they would be alive if he hadn’t bought them the car. Other days, he would believe that they would still be alive if he hadn’t bought them the Las Vegas house that they were driving to.
None of this guilt was rational, but the thoughts still consumed him. However, time heals many wounds and as he continued to strive for that elusive championship, the pain and the guilt scarred over his broken heart. Raising his niece, Brianna, helped fill the void his parents and sister left and gave him an even greater purpose to carry on. He finished his time in Miami in 1994 with nine points and five assists per game.
The following year, he was traded to the Orlando Magic where he enjoyed his first trip to the NBA Finals. In his first year with the Magic he teamed up with center Shaquille O'Neal to make the "Shaw-Shaq Redemption" which was named after the Shawshank Redemption movie. The alley-oop between the two players quickly became a fan favorite. During his first Finals appearance, Brian Shaw averaged 12.5 points per game while the Magic were swept by the Houston Rockets. Little did he know just how much that devastating loss would motivate him to future success.
After losing in the 1995 NBA Finals, Brian Shaw spent two more years in Orlando before being traded to Golden State before the 1997-1998 season. In 39 games with the Warriors, Shaw averaged 6.4 points 4.4 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. He was traded to Philadelphia in the middle of the year and decreased his points per game average to 6.1 per game. After spending all but one game on the injured list in Portland in 1998-1999, Brian Shaw signed with the Los Angeles Lakers, rejoining his old Magic teammate Shaquille O’Neal.
The Lakers were a young, talented team led by O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and coach Phil Jackson. It was a team filled with players hungry for a championship and they tore through their schedule on their way to the NBA Finals. During the NBA All-Star Weekend in Oakland, Shaw was given the key to the city along with fellow Bay Area natives Jason Kidd and Gary Payton. While Shaw only averaged three points, the Lakers defeated the Indiana Pacers in six games. While the Lakers won the next two Finals, Brian Shaw contributed by averaging 3.6 and 3.5 points respectively. After the Lakers lost to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2003 Western Conference Semifinals, Brian Shaw retired as a player and dove into his new role as a coach.
After retiring as a player, Brian Shaw scouted for the Lakers, working from Oakland. During the 2004-2005 season, he began a coaching career which has spanned till present day. While working as a Lakers assistant, he earned two more NBA Finals rings in 2009 and 2010. After losing to the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 playoffs, Phil Jackson retired as the Laker’s coach and Kobe Bryant endorsed Shaw to take his place. However, the Lakers went in a different direction and hired Mike Brown. When he was passed over for the head coaching job, Shaw left for Indiana where he would serve as the Pacer’s associate head coach for the next two years.
In 2013, he was hired to be the Denver Nugget’s head coach. Denver finished Shaw’s first year 36-46 and out of the playoffs. After a 20-39 start the following year, Brian Shaw was fired. After a year away from the game, he returned to Los Angeles to be the Laker’s associate head coach. He served in that role through the 2018-2019 season. He is now the head coach of the NBA G League’s Ignite, which is located in Walnut Creek, California.