With time apparently healing all wounds, Kobe Bryant’s eyes lit up surrounding Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey retirement when the Lakers play Tuesday at Staples Center.
“It’s going to be great, actually,” Bryant said following the Lakers’ win Saturday over the Kings. “It’s well deserved, beyond well deserved. I’m very very happy for him and proud of him. He’s made a smooth transition from player to now commentator and so forth.”
Although he practiced and plans to play despite nursing bone spurs in his left foot and a sprained left ankle, Bryant didn’t speak to reporters on Monday. But following the Lakers’ win Feb. 12 against the Phoenix Suns, Bryant provided a surprising revelation about their dynamic.
“Shaq and I have a really, really good relationship now,” Bryant said. “It’s good. I think it’s a good lesson for all of us.”
And what is that lesson?
“I think we appreciate each other more now than ever,” Bryant said. “I think the further you get away from the history that you had together, the more you put perspective on it on how dominant we were.”
No one disputed that.
Bryant and O’Neal teamed up for three NBA championships from 2000 to 2002. They formed one of the NBA’s most formidable duos. Plenty of teams wondered if they could ever stop them.
They could, namely because they stopped themselves.
Bryant and O’Neal openly bickered at each other. O’Neal disliked Bryant’s shooting tendencies. Bryant couldn’t stand O’Neal’s conditioning issues. Their talent overcame that. But their pride made each year more trying. The Lakers eventually traded O’Neal in 2004 to the Miami Heat.
The two had publicly made amends years ago, but Bryant has spent more time this season waxing nostalgic about their time spent together than expressing over any resentment over how it ended.
“I had a chance to see him this season,” Bryant said, “but it’s going to be very very special.”
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