Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant didn’t get along. OK. That has been established. Fut really, is it worth talking about a decade after Shaq left town?
No. But that didn’t stop reporters and radio talk heads taking the joyous occasion of Shaq’s jersey retirement to relive the glory days between Shaq and Kobe and their well-documented feud.
This season, Kobe Bryant has allowed his words and thoughts to flow freer than in seasons past. When Shaq came to Staples Center earlier this season, Kobe talked about taking the challenge of being a sidekick alongside Shaq and making it his mission to win without the most dominant basketball player of the past quarter-century.
So, on Shaq’s jersey retirement night, both guys acknowledged their tumultuous relationship honestly and were on the same page when it came to how they interacted with each other.
“There’s an ‘athletic’ dislike and there’s a ‘real’ dislike,” Shaq explained at his pregame press conference. “[Kobe and I] never had a ‘real’ dislike. Every time I would see his lovely wife and his beautiful children, I would always go to his children and say, ‘Hello babies, I’m Uncle Shaq.’ We had a couple arguments and disagreements. We had a million good times and a thousand bad times. But, as a leader, it was my job to focus on the task.”
Shaq admitted they had problems but contended that the problems, or "beef," were over between the two of them for some time.
“The beef was really over when we had the All-Star game in Phoenix, and it was me and with my son on stage,” Shaq said. “I was going to give [Kobe] the MVP trophy, but he just looked at my son and said, ‘Here you go, little man.’ So, I knew it was really over then. And that was initiated by him. Usually, I’m the one who initiates it being over. I knew it was all said and done.”
That All-Star game was played in February 2009. In April 2012, more than three years later, talk on the radio and in the papers around Los Angeles still questioned Bryant’s lack of physical involvement in the ceremony.
Bryant sent out a video message, but that was hardly the highlight of the ceremony. Somewhere between Phil Jackson, Jeanie Buss, and Shaq at a podium, Kobe’s video message fell by the wayside. But that’s OK.
After the game, Bryant realized that the media was hard-set to rekindle the old Shaq-Kobe rivalry. So, Bryant played along.
“I appreciate you guys trying to start some s***,” Bryant said after the game. “I’ll help you out and say, ‘f*** him.’ I didn’t want to go out there.”
Did those sound like the words of someone who was cautiously holding back his emotions?
Bryant proceeded to say that he met Shaq in the tunnel at halftime and offered personal congrats. However, the Lakers’ playoff chase took precedence, and Tuesday’s game was too important to gloss over for the occasion.
Regardless of what the papers, radio, and television may say on Wednesday, there really is no beef left to chew on between Kobe and Shaq.