It’s the question that haunts Lakers fans — “what if?”
What if Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal could have set aside their absolutely massive egos and stayed together? How many rings? Would they be considered with the Jordan-era Bulls and ‘60s Celtics with the great dynasties of the NBA?
“There’s no way we would have lasted (15 years). Absolutely not,” Bryant told Colin Cowherd during a Tuesday appearance on “The Herd” on ESPN Radio.
Bryant also recalled the moment when he truly realized the two could co-exist for only so long.
“There was an interview that I heard Shaq do which he kind of threw down the challenge of me not being able to win without him,” recalled Bryant. “After I read that, I said, ‘Aw, that’s it.’ Some comparison that he made with me and Penny Hardaway, and once I read that, I said, ‘You know what? I can’t finish my career with people saying that. There’s no way.'”
Retired and now reflective, Shaq looks back on the Laker years with Kobe as the greatest of his career. Not sure Kobe will ever see it that way. He doesn’t forgive grudges easily.
Video: Kobe Bryant passes Shaq on all-time scoring list
“It was inevitable” was how Kobe Bryant described himself eventually passing Shaquille O’Neal to move into fifth on the all-time NBA scoring list — which he did with a long two pointer in the second quarter against the 76ers Monday night. Kobe had all 24 he needed to move past Shaq in the first half. (Then went cold, but that’s another story.)
While he may play it down, make no mistake Kobe is savoring this — there is still no love lost between him and Shaquille. The feud was real. It was not all Phil Jackson, although Jackson used it to his advantage. Remember when Kobe won ring number five he couldn’t wait to remind everyone that is one more than Shaq? He will privately savor this.
Who was the big culprit in the Kobe Bryant vs. Shaquille O’Neal feud that broke up the Lakers? Was it the Type A personality of Kobe driving the wedge? Did Shaq need to be “the man” so bad that he held back Kobe (Shaq wouldn’t learn to share the spotlight until Miami)?
Robert Horry will choose Door No. 3 — Phil Jackson.
I think Phil Jackson started that feud. It happened many times that after team practice he would say, “Kobe said this about Shaq, and Shaq said that about Kobe… We couldn’t believe how could that happen, because just the day before we saw them together, jumping on one another. Phil liked it when there was conflict of some sort.
I always tell people; if you look at those championships, you’ll see who were the closest players on the team. Normally those are the guys who are the first to hug each other. And when we were winning, it was always Shaq and Kobe who hugged. I think this will answer your question. Later it was blown out of proportion by the media and both players started doing something that didn’t make sense.
My take — Jackson fanned the flames but he was not the instigator. As author Roland Lazenby said, this feud was going on before Jackson arrived in Los Angeles. These were (and still are) two massive egos that did not share the team well. Jackson used that to his advantage at times and especially sided with Shaq — that was Shaq’s locker room at the time and Jackson couldn’t lose it. So he’d smack Kobe in public a little for Shaq’s amusement.
This was not all Phil. He played a part, for sure. But he did not start it.