"Of course, I'll be there," Shaquille O'Neal responded on ESPN's Mike and Mike radio show, when asked whether or not he would attend Kobe Bryant's final game in the NBA. "I will definitely be there for the last game."
O'Neal and Bryant combined for three NBA titles and made four trips to NBA Finals before the duo separated and O'Neal landed in Miami via a trade in 2004. O'Neal went on to win another title with Dwyane Wade in South Beach, but the most dominant center in recent memory still had regrets about not working out his competitive differences with Bryant.
"All the time," O'Neal said when asked if he thinks about the missed opportunity and the missed NBA titles. "In a perfect world, feels like [I should have had] seven rings."
In the end, O'Neal ended with four titles, and Bryant's partnership with Pau Gasol yielded his fourth and fifth rings. Famously, Bryant took to the podium after his fifth title in 2010 and responded to a question about what that victory meant to him as an individual.
"I got one more than Shaq," Bryant couldn't hide the smile on his face when making the comment, and neither could the child on his lap. "So you could take that to the bank."
Recently, Bryant was asked again about whether or not he would redo his career and work out his differences with O'Neal to keep that incredible partnership together. Bryant, though, offered an interesting response.
"It was always the challenge of, ‘Kobe can't win without Shaq,' right?," Bryant said in Chicago following his final game against the Bulls. "If I had went my whole career and we had won championships, God bless you guys [the media], but guys would be saying at the Hall of Fame, 'He won with Shaq.' I didn't want to hear that. I didn't want to hear it."
Bryant explained, "Because I knew I had the determination to do it and it was either sink or swim. At some point I was going to take that challenge, and it was either you guys are right or I'm right. I had to take that challenge."
Though Bryant went through a seven-year drought between his third and fourth NBA titles, those final two titles did cement his legacy as one of the greatest individual players and winners the game had ever seen.
Everything considered, Bryant seems satisfied with his 20-year NBA career, and that includes his time with O'Neal and without.
Bryant is scheduled to play his final NBA game on Apr. 13 at Staples Center, against the Utah Jazz.