Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal played together for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996-2004. Considered to be one of the greatest duos in NBA history, they went on to win 3 championships and made the finals 4 times out of 5. However, it was expected that the Los Angeles Lakers having 2 extremely valuable players (Kobe and Shaq) would go on to win way more than 3 championships. However, Shaquille O’Neal got traded to Miami Heat in 2004 and that was where the duo broke up.
How it all began?
The increasing tension between Shaquille and Kobe over the years was a reason why the Shaq went to Miami Heat. Shaq and Kobe believed in being the leaders for the team they played in. At that time, Shaq was in his prime and Kobe was still developing as a player and Shaq was the one through whom the offense ran. Shaq won MVP for 1999-2000 regular season while also winning 3 championships and 3 Finals MVP awards during 1999-2002.
Differences between the two
Shaq was apparently considered to be the better player among the two, however Kobe was not far behind. Bryant improved on his game consistently and his stats increased by a considerable margin every year. Shaq would criticise Kobe as a selfish player while Kobe called out Shaq for being lazy and not showing up on practice. Kobe used to practice extensively and couldn’t stand people who did not work hard. Shaq being a gifted player was able to make do in the NBA despite the lack of practice and effort.
In the 2002-2003 season, Shaq suffered a toe injury and decided to take time off. Kobe criticised Shaq for making excuses to not play and Shaq was pis*ed off by him. Shaq took jabs back at Kobe in several ways saying the Lakers were his team, the addition of Gary Payton and Karl Malone was because of Shaq etc. During the offseason in 2003, Kobe was charged with the se*ual assault and was in a very vulnerable position at that time. In the interview with Jim Gray, Kobe spoke about Shaq not being there to support him during his legal issues even when several other players reached out to him.
I heard absolutely nothing from him. I spoke to Devean [George], Rick [Fox], Mitch [Kupchak], Phil, and our owner Jerry Buss. And Shaq’s own Uncle Jerome called and left three messages. Other teammates like Derek [Fisher], Mark [Madsen], and [Stanislav Medvedenko] left messages as well. Opponents called like [Chris] Webber, [Mike] Bibby, and many others. So did a lot of coaches. Michael Jordan, who didn’t have my home phone, tracked it down to lend his support. So did Tiger Woods. But yet from my so-called big brother, I heard nothing.Kobe Bryant on Shaquille O’Neal not lending him support during the case
However, Shaq claimed that he did reach out to Kobe and had his bodyguard Jerome Crawford call him. Kobe being disappointed about the support he received during summer told Shaq “You’re supposed to be my friend”. Shaq in return reminded him of the time when he wouldn’t attend team dinners, didn’t attend Shaq’s wedding and also didn’t invite Shaq to his wedding. So, overall things were pretty bad among the two. Their hatred for each other affected their game on the court. Shaq blamed Kobe for playing selfish and costing them the 2004 championship.
After the 2004 season, it was pretty certain that Kobe and Shaq wouldn’t be together. Kobe knew he had to make a name for himself and was pretty sure that if Shaq stayed on the Lakers he would demand a trade. Kobe talked about considering the Chicago Bulls at the time. Apparently, Shaq also stated that Kobe would never be successful without Shaq and Kobe was hell bent on proving himself as a star player who could carry the team being a leader.
However, the Laker organisation had planned to keep Kobe and build the team around him. Shaq was getting old and his game was only going to deteriorate at that point. So, Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat where he went on to win his 4th championship later. Kobe’s path towards winning championships was pretty difficult.
His game evolved a lot as a player, however he lost the NBA finals against the Celtics in 2008. Shaq mocked Kobe by rapping about Kobe not being able to win without him. During the initial years after they separated they didn’t speak to each other and Kobe clearly stated that Shaq and him weren’t friends at that time. Bryant later on went on to win two more championships with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010.
However, later things cooled down between the two. They pretty much became friends again. Shaq had showed up in Kobe’s last game. Before the game, Shaq had even challenged Kobe to score 50 points. Kobe wasn’t quite sure about it, however he scored 60 points in his final performance. The two even did a one on one interview where they talked about several things in detail.
Before Kobe passed away, the same day in the morning he had texted Shareef O’Neal (Shaq’s son). Kobe would often reach out to Shareef to check out what he was up to. Shaq was pretty devastated at Kobe’s death when his son told him that Kobe had died. Shaq described it as something he didn’t believe at that time. Shaq was already dealing with the loss of his sister and when the news broke out to him, he didn’t accept it at first. Shaq recently broke down while talking about Kobe’s death and even stated that he would support Kobe’s family.
So, this was pretty much the story between Kobe and Shaq. Hope you enjoyed reading. Apart from that, I personally loved Kobe’s game and my condolences go out to the Bryant family.