Kobe Bryant was honest from his perspective: He never thought Shaq matched his work ethic, and that bothered him. (More on that later.)
At a corporate event in Las Vegas recently, Kobe said he would have had 12 rings if Shaq had his work ethic, and said Shaq would say the same. Shaq disagreed in an Instagram comment.
Don’t think the feud is back on. It’s not. Kobe and Shaq matured, they worked everything out long ago, and their all good now. Nothing to see here… except Shaq taking another dig at Dwight Howard. Because he can.
Two thoughts on the idea that Shaq didn’t work hard.
First, did he work as hard as Kobe? No. But that’s an unfair comparison, how many players in the history of the game have had Kobe’s work ethic? A handful at best. (We also could have a broader philosophical discussion of whether that level obsessiveness about work is a healthy lifestyle, although this is not the time or place.)
Second, to say he wasn’t single-mindedly obsessed like Kobe or Jordan is different from saying he didn’t put in the work. Shaq did work on his game and body. This was a different era of basketball — no zone defenses allowed, the three-pointer was more fallback than primary weapon — and it was an era where powerful, bully basketball was almost impossible to stop. Especially with someone as strong and athletic as Shaq. That weight he had was more weapon than liability, at least until injuries started to slow him down. Shaq was the most powerful, dominant player of his era, and he took a beating for it. He was fouled more often and harder than almost anyone in the game. He needed some recovery time after the season to get right, more like a football player than a basketball star.
But Shaq worked on his game, and as his body started to betray him and age started to catch up, Shaq still put in the work and some productive years in smaller roles.
Shaq remains one of the great centers to ever play the game, and the notion that he somehow coasted to what he got is wildly misplaced. As Shaq said, you don’t get statues by not working hard.