Even as they clashed endlessly over personality and role differences, Shaquille O’Neal forever respected Kobe Bryant’s talent and work ethic. It explained how the two won three NBA championships together. It explained how Bryant eventually eclipsed O’Neal on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. It explained how Bryant will last 20 NBA seasons before retiring nearly five months from now.
Whenever that moment comes, O’Neal expressed hope that Bryant will properly channel his competitive juices and love for basketball elsewhere.
“He’s a very intelligent guy. I’m sure he has a lot of things to fall back on,” O’Neal said on Monday in the latest episode of ‘The BIG Podcast with Shaq’ “Some people really miss it. Some people can’t live without it. Some people are prepared to carry on. I can’t tell which guy he is. I know he was basketball, basketball, basketball. So now imagine not having to get up and work out without basketball. I don’t know where that’s going to take him.”
Bryant has already ruled out becoming an NBA coach or general manager. But Bryant has expressed openness toward having involvement with a sports ownership group. He also founded Kobe, Inc. a sports company that has invested in Body Armor sports beverages.
But for now, O’Neal offered Bryant some advice that once became a source of contention when they played together from 1996 to 2004.
“Just keep racking up more points. I’m sure it’s going to be a great time when he can look at the scoreboard and see, ‘Myself, blah blah blah, Michael Jordan under me,’ ” O’Neal said. “He told me as a youngster, ‘I’m going to pass Michael Jordan up.’ I used to be like, ‘Shut up. Sit down,’ because, you know, he came in dribbling through his legs, and I’m like, ‘Shut up.’ And he did it.”
Yes, he did. Bryant, who has 32,753 career points, surpassed Jordan (32,292) last December for third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Bryant only trails Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38.387) and Karl Malone (36,928).
Yet, O’Neal argued he “would probably have to give Mike the edge” because of his seniority. Jordan also won six NBA championships, while Bryant won five.
“Comparisons: always wanted the ball all the time, always wanted the big shots,” O’Neal said. “Comparisons: don’t give a [bleep] what anybody says about them; do things your way no matter what. After you hit a big shot, that one fist in the air, 1, 2, 3. They had the same walk. They had the same style. They had the same work ethic.”