The two endlessly fought over everything imaginable.
Shaquille O’Neal griped about Kobe Bryant’s high-volume shooting. Bryant disliked O’Neal’s work ethic. O’Neal argued Bryant should pass to his teammates more, most notably himself. Bryant argued O’Neal should improve his conditioning.
Yet, that did not stop the Lakers from winning three consecutive NBA titles with O’Neal and Bryant leading the way. Nor did that stop O’Neal from choosing Bryant’s body of work in the prime of his career over LeBron James.
“Kobe has that killer instinct and I would probably have to go with Kobe. “That’s not a knock against LeBron. But I know Kobe and played with him longer and can see what he can do,” O’Neal said on Monday on ‘The Dan Patrick Show.’ “A lot of people try to compare [LeBron] to Michael [Jordan] when he’s more like Magic [Johnson]. When he needs to take over games, he will. He’s really really smart. He’s very intelligent and lets the game to come him and relies on others.”
O’Neal played with James only in the 2009-10 season in Cleveland, a stark difference from the eight seasons he played with Bryant. But the Lakers traded O’Neal to the Miami Heat shortly after the 2004 NBA Finals loss to Detroit, a season that reportedly featured O’Neal threatening to kill Bryant after publicly criticizing his work ethic and conditioning.
“I never said, ‘I was going to murder you,'” O’Neal said about his tension with Bryant. “Did I say, ‘I was going to kill you’ a few times? Yeah.”
Yet, O’Neal insisted he and Bryant did not frequently fight.
“t just appeared that way. A lot of people ask me, what would I do to make that relationship better? Nothing. We won three out of four. We were the greatest enigmatic one-two punch,” O’Neal said of Bryant. “When you go back to the first championship [in 2000], you see a little guy jumping into my arms. If you focus really close, you will see who that little guy is.”
That player was Bryant, who O’Neal believed would have remained his teammate leading up to his retirement had Karl Malone not injured his knee leading into the 2004 NBA Finals against the Pistons.
“If Karl Malone stayed healthy, we would have beaten Detroit that year,” O’Neal said. “We would have gone to the Finals four out of five years. We would’ve had four championships. There’s no way you can break the team up then.”
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