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.