The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the most successful franchises in the history of the NBA. They have won 16 NBA titles, second only to the Boston Celtics. The dynamic duo of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were responsible for three of those titles.
However, if it weren’t for the constant feuds between the two, they might have won a few more championships in the 2000s. Recently, another incident has shed further light on the rough history between the two.
According to Jeff Pearlman‘s, “Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty,” Shaq slapped Kobe Bryant during a pickup game in the 1999 lockout season.
“They proceeded to divide into teams — some guys over here, some guys over there. O’Neal and Polynice — dueling 7-footers — were on different sides. ‘Kobe was on my squad,’ Polynice recalled. ‘Opposite Shaq’.
“It was just another run, until it was no longer just another run. As he was prone to do in pickup, O’Neal called a series of iffy fouls whenever he missed a shot.
“I’m tired of this s—,” Bryant finally said. ‘Just play’. One more comment like that,” O’Neal snapped, ‘and I slap the s— out of you.’
“O’Neal grabbed the ball in order to freeze action. ‘Say another motherf—ing word,’ he said, staring directly at Bryant. ‘Aw, f— you,’ Bryant said. ‘You don’t kn–’ Smack! O’Neal slapped Bryant across the face. Hard.”
Although the two were separated during this incident, Kobe earned Shaq’s respect. The duo went on to three-peat, but they still had their differences. Following the 2004 NBA Finals defeat, the duo broke up and went their separate ways.
How good was the duo of Kobe Bryant and Shaq?
One of the biggest questions that every NBA fan has is- what if Kobe and Shaq never broke up? Unfortunately, there is no answer for that. But for the time they were in LA, they were breathtaking.
During their championship run, Kobe was blooming into the next big star of the league. And Shaq was already among the top 3 players in the league at the time. Moreover, the brain behind this superb team was none other than the legendary Phil Jackson.
No matter how good Kobe and Shaq were individually, they needed each other to accomplish this feat. If it weren’t for those years together, they might have had a completely different legacy.