The two stars that endlessly feuded suddenly sang their praises.
But when it came to providing a personal tribute toward each other, there was none.
Shaquille O’Neal’s retirement jersey at halftime of the Lakers-Mavericks game featured Kobe Bryant taping his message.
“Congratulations to you, the most gifted physical specimen I’ve seen play this game,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said in a taped message. “What you’ve done to this city and meant to this city has been absolutely historical with the run we had together.”
But why weren’t they together on the court during the ceremony?
“I couldn’t,” Bryant said after the Lakers’ 101-81 win Tuesday over the Dallas Mavericks. “It was too big of a game. I couldn’t do that. I just couldn’t. I wish I could, but this game was a huge huge game for us. I had to make sure I stayed back here, stretch and get ready for the second half. I wish I could’ve, but it’s impossible. I watched it on TV as much as I could.”
O’Neal thanked everyone from Lakers owner Jerry Buss, former Lakers general manager Jerry West and former Lakers coach Phil Jackson. He even thanked the courtside celebrities, including Jack Nicholson, Adam Sandler and Jimmy Goldstein. But O’Neal didn’t think any of his teammates, most notably Bryant. But as soon as speculation churned, O’Neal tweeted out this message.
This is what I want everyone to kno thank u very muchEspecially you Kobeyoutu.be/CzUNO_CKWKE
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) April 3, 2013
“I wish you guys would say we were the most dominant one two punch ever created,” O’Neal said regarding Bryant, who teamed to win three NBA titles together. “That’s what I would like to read. That’s what I know we were. We haven’t played since 2004 and nine, 10 years later, you’re still talking about the so called beef that we had. There was little arguments and beef. I know you all had brothers and sisters and have disagreements and arguments. But you still love them. I loved him. He’s my teammate and brother. I’m proud to call him both. Did we still have arguments and disagreements? Yes.”
That’s why Bryant couldn’t help but laugh when a reporter asked if he’d want O’Neal to attend his jersey retirement in person.
“Not if he’s engaged in a playoff chase,” Bryant said, laughing. “I appreciate you guys trying to start some [stuff] just for old time’s sake. I’ll help you out and say, [Bleep] him. I didn’t want to go out there.”
But the two say they’ve remained on good terms. O’Neal added that detente took place during the 2009 NBA All-Star weekend when the two teamed up and won co-MVPS. O’Neal contends he was going to give the trophy to Bryant before he handed it to one of his kids.
“We had a million good times and a thousand bad times,” O’Neal said. “As a leader, it was my job to focus on the task. I did that. As leaders, sometimes when you focus on the task, the relationship dwindles. But if I had to do it all over again, would I do it differently? Probably not.”
Bryant also maintains he wouldn’t have altered staying in the locker room at halftime so he could perform his proper stretching and treatment on the bone spurs of his left foot and sprained left ankle.
“We talked when I came in at halftime,” Bryant said. “I stopped and chopped it up for a couple minutes. I just told him congratulations and it was an honor for him to have this night. I told him he looked slim and trim. It looked like he could go out there and played a bit.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org