Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal spent eight seasons together with the Los Angeles Lakers and during those years, they earned the title as one of the best duos that we’ve ever seen. They managed to win 3 out of 4 NBA championships but their time together ultimately ended due to consistent feuding and butting heads.
Things were said in the media and there was a lot of finger-pointing, but today it seems all things are good as they both sit down and talk things out publicly for the first time on Shaq’s podcast, “The Big Podcast with Shaq.”
Over the past week, a few quotes have been released of the two guys expressing their regret over the constant fights between each other:
“A lot of stuff was said out of the heat of the moment,” O’Neal said in an excerpt from the podcast that was played on ESPN Radio on Wednesday. “I guarantee I don’t remember a lot of stuff that they said, because I changed my thought process of, you know what, we won three out of four, what the hell are you all talking about? This is not really even a story.”
Said Bryant: “Here’s the thing, though. When you say it at the time, you actually mean it, and then when you get older you have more perspective, and you’re like holy s—. I was an idiot when I was a kid.
When you combine two alpha males together, this is bound to happen. Yes, there was anger and frustration between the two but there was never real hate, even though it seemed it at the time. Throughout all the bickering, Kobe & Shaq were still able to win three rings and that’s how Shaq sees the big picture:
“I just want people to know that I don’t hate you, I know you don’t hate me. I call it today a ‘work beef,’ is what we had,” said O’Neal, who retired after the 2010-11 season. “I was young, you was young. But then as I look at it, we won three [championships] out of four so I don’t really think a lot was done wrong. So I just wanted to clear the air and let everybody 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 both.”
Seeing these two hash things out is one of the best things for me, as a Lakers fan. As time passed, I always wondered how these guys felt about their situation and about each other and with this podcast, I finally got my answer.
The big question is if they stayed together, how many rings could they have ultimately won? When I look back on it, I sometimes think they could’ve won a few more but separating might have been the best thing for them, mainly Kobe.
When he finally won his two rings in the post-Shaq era, that’s really when he solidified his legacy and people really began to give him the credit he deserved. In the early 2000’s when they won, it was always viewed as O’Neal’s team and Bryant took the back seat, even though he played a major role in those championships. But when he did it on his own as the leader, that’s when the discussion changed.
The breakup was inevitable and Bryant explained the separation with a great comparison of Chamberlain playing with and a rising, Michael Jordan:
“How long is that going to last before Michael says, ‘You know what, it’s time for me to show what I can do,’” Bryant said, adding of O’Neal, “That’s why he and I are one of a kind when it comes to tandems, because you literally had two alpha males playing together on one team and that normally does not happen.”
A great analogy and amazing dialogue by two future hall-of-famers. These two were good together and good on their own. They impacted the league and left a stamp on the game that will never be forgotten. If you want to hear the full conversation, check out Shaq’s podcast, which is out now.