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NBA champion Kobe Bryant recently discussed his past issues with former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Shaquille O’Neal and why despite three titles together, he nearly left the team in 2004.
Kobe said the ex-Laker ultimately sparked tensions in the 2000’s when he claimed he needed him to win.
“It just wasn’t going to happen, it’s not in the cards,” Kobe said about maintaining a close bond with Shaq as Lakers teammates. “There’s things I wanted to do in my career, take my career to another level, that I was just uncapable of doing as long as we were playing together which I was fine with doing until I heard him say a few times, ‘Kobe’s not going to be as succesful without me, this, that and the other.’ That kind of became the chatter — once that became the chatter, it’s like, ‘Wait, whoa, whoa, whoa. No, no, no. I can do this.’ It just wasn’t going to work. No matter what happened, even if we had won that [2004 NBA Finals] championship, I would have just, me being a free agent, there was just no way. I had to accept this change, I had to see what I could do.” (Yahoo Sports)
Bryant also said his habit of getting on teammates distanced themselves.
“One of the big problems that he had with me is that I’m extremely, brutally honest with my guys,” Kobe added. “If a player’s not working as hard as he should, I’m gonna tell him. And that includes somebody’s whose 7’3, 400 pounds. [laughs] Which is probably not the smartest thing in the world to do, but you know, it is what it is. I don’t pull any punches. I think that’s why there’s such a great deal of respect, still, from him to me and vice versa. He knows what I’m about, he knows I’m not going to sugarcoat things and he knows I’m going to be straight up and honest about him.” (Yahoo Sports)
Their feud even spilled out of the locker room and into ex-Lakers head coach Phil Jackson’s The Last Season book.
The two were able to win three consecutive NBA Championships (2000, 2001, 2002) and make an NBA Finals appearance in 2004. Personal differences and arguments over their respective roles on the Lakers were followed by a trade that sent O’Neal to the Miami Heat while Bryant was re-signed as a free agent by the Lakers. Lakers head coach Phil Jackson would later write a book entitled The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul, reflecting on the troubles Bryant and O’Neal had during their last season together. (Wikipedia)
Last week, rap veteran Nas gave Shaq an edge over Bryant in terms of their music-making skills.
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant have had their fair share of verbal sparring bouts when they were teammates on the Lakers from 1996-2004. According to rapper Nas, who has released eight consecutive platinum and multi-platinum albums since 1994, one of basketball stars might be a bit more glib than the other. When asked who is a better rapper, Nas said, “Shaq got that. Shaq got a classic hip-hop album. I don’t think Kobe got a chance to put out an album.” (Los Angeles Times)
Check out Kobe Bryant’s interview below: