Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant Clear The Air On Longtime Feud
As one of the most dominant duos in NBA history, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal led the Los Angeles Lakers to three straight NBA titles at the start of the century. Both players were at the top of their games and without a doubt future Hall of Famers, but despite their success, the dynamic duo’s stint together didn’t last as long as it should’ve.
More than a decade after the two last played together in purple and gold, Bryant and O’Neal have put aside their differences and appeared on Shaq’s podcast, The Big Podcast with Shaq, to clear the air about the feud between the two superstars. O’Neal kicked off the podcast by saying the following, via Lakers.com:
“Listen, I think right now it’s time to clear the air, because I’ve said many times that we were the most enigmatic, controversial, most talked about, dominant one-two punch. I just want people to know that I don’t hate. I know you don’t hate me. I called it today a “work beef” is what we had. I was young. You were young. But as I look at it, we won three out of four (championships), so I don’t really think a lot was done wrong. I just want to clear the air and let everyone know that: No, I don’t hate you. We had a lot of disagreements. We had a lot of arguments. But I think it fueled us.”
In 2004, O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat as a result of the feud with his former teammate and the veteran center’s reluctance to ease up on hi contract demands. Shaq ultimately went on to win another title playing alongside Dwyane Wade in Miami while Kobe eventually helped build the Lakers back up in the perennial title contender leading to back-to-back championships with Pau Gasol as his running mate.
Bryant said the following a little later in the podcast about how both players handled things the wrong way in Los Angeles when the feud was in full swing, via Lakers.com:
“Here’s the thing: When you say it at the time, you actually mean it. Then when you get older, you have more perspective, and you’re like, “Holy s—, I was an idiot as a kid.” To me, the most important thing was really to just keep your mouth shut. You don’t need to go to the press with stuff. You keep it internal. We have our arguments and our disagreements, but I think having our debates within the press was something I wish would have been avoided. But it did kind of create this whirlwind around us as a team with myself and Shaq and the press that just put so much pressure on us as an organization. But I enjoyed playing with him. I had a great, great, great time playing with him, and I appreciate it to this day. I learned so many lessons from this guy, like I alluded to earlier, in terms of leadership, community and camaraderie and things like that. I will say, Shaq was a beast, man. He’s smiling all the time. He’s on TV and TNT and you see his personality, but this dude will rip your heart out. And that’s what I admired the most: that he was as nasty as I was on that court.”
Obviously, it doesn’t matter what Kobe and Shaq say now with so many years having gone by. Neither player can turn back the clock nor correct things by teaming up again in Los Angeles. O’Neal retired back in 2011 and Bryant is on the verge of retirement heading into what will likely be his last year in the NBA.
It does make one wonder what might’ve happened had these two Laker legends put their differences aside while still playing together in Los Angeles. Many believe there would’ve been many more titles to have been won if ego didn’t play such a major role after following four straight NBA Finals appearances.