No wonder the former Lakers teammates feuded.
But how many other countless players took note of Kobe telling on Shaq?
Years later, after the case against him was dropped and a civil suit was settled out of court with no admission of guilt from Bryant, agents of prominent NBA players would still cite the O’Neal subplot as the sort of sin that inspired their clients to steer clear of Laker Land.
Why free agents avoided Kobe’s Lakers has long been a source of intrigue. It’s never just one reason for any single player, and we’re not talking about a single player – making the rationales vast.
Kobe’s loose lips about Shaq probably rubbed some players the wrong way, but that’s just part of the total package. Kobe was abrasive with his teammates throughout his career, consumed with winning and treating anyone whom he believed stood in his way with disdain. That attitude – acknowledged by Kobe himself – helped him win five championships, but it also turned off people. Players appreciated Kobe’s win-at-all-costs determination from afar. Fewer enjoyed it up close.
Kobe mentioning Shaq to police was his way of trying to beat the charge (which he eventually did), to contextualize himself as within the norm. Shaq’s personal life was just collateral damage.
If players saw Kobe name-dropping Shaq as an aberration, they probably would’ve forgotten the incident much quicker.
Which brings us to D’Angelo Russell, who recorded teammate Nick Young talking about sleeping with other women besides fiancée Iggy Azalea. If Russell spins this as a mistake of immaturity, it will make it easier for him to get past it (and the Lakers to draw free agents). After all, immaturity doesn’t necessarily fit the identity Russell will hold in the future.
Russell can also emulate Kobe in one way: win. Everyone wants to be around a winner, which is why Kobe didn’t receive worse backlash for bringing up Shaq.