It may have taken a full decade, but Kobe Bryant finally admitted he was Shaquille O’Neal’s sidekick during the Los Angeles Lakers’ three-peat from 2000-2003 (see video above).
The Shaq and Kobe combo led the Lakers to four NBA Finals appearances over a five-year span, but the superstar duo only managed to win three championships before the Lakers traded their center and decided to keep their shooting guard.
When O’Neal departed, Bryant was widely blamed for driving the “Most Dominant Ever” out of town. The two superstars were unable to see eye-to-eye, and Shaq’s departure was viewed as a way to keep Kobe in purple and gold for the long-term.
On Tuesday night at Staples Center, the Lakers and Suns, two of Shaq’s former teams, were going head-to-head, so the “Big Shaqtus” decided to make a rare appearance at Staples Center.
Prior to tipoff, Bryant came over and shared some laughs with his former teammate.
“It was good to see [Shaq],”Bryant said after the game. “I think we appreciate each other more now than ever. I think the further you get away from the history you had together, the more you put perspective on it and how dominant we were.”
The larger-than-life personality of Shaq was on full display as he was shown on the Staples Center big-screen during a segment of “Kiss-cam.” In character, the big fella grabbed the man sitting next to him and pretended to lock lips. The crowd appreciated his comedic antics and applauded their former star every time he was featured on the scoreboard.
After the game, Bryant was facing the media after an uncharacteristically poor performance where he scored only four points and had eight turnovers. Still, he was in good spirits because the team was able to pull off a victory.
When the topic of Shaquille O’Neal came up, Bryant smiled and welcomed the questions.
When asked point blank if he was Shaq’s sidekick during the duo’s time together, Kobe responded, “Yea, for sure.”
“The challenge for me was to show [Shaq] and show everybody else that I could win without him,” Bryant continued. “Point proven.”
“I took it as an honor and as a challenge to be a player that could play the supporting role. Then, move from that, take the leading role, win that way as well. I took a lot of pride in that.”
It may have taken nearly a decade since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal went through a public divorce, but the former seems to be content with his role as sidekick to the latter during the time they played together.