At one point, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant did not like each other — regardless of how much Shaq wants to downplay it. There is a reason why the two will always have to answer the awkward and uncomfortable questions from their younger days as teammates of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Assuming you aren’t a young pup still in high school, we all remember the stories of Shaq and Kobe going at it like nothing we’ve ever seen before between teammates. So if you were too young to remember the feud, I’m afraid you’ll have to jump to good ol’ Google and look it up. Anyway, (spoiler alert) one of the incidents that took place during the height of the beef was an incident in which the Black Mamba ratted out O’Neal for paying women hush money. In fact, one report claims Shaq paid up to $1 million bones to keep the groupies quiet.
Now, more than a decade later, Shaq is retired and Kobe just played his last game with the Lake Show. And while the two patched up their differences years ago, apparently, reporters such as this writer of The Daily Beast, still aren’t convinced the two have really moved on.
I ask Shaq how he really felt about getting “ratted out by Kobe,” and if they ever really buried the hatchet. After all, less than a year after Kobe’s betrayal, Shaq had orchestrated a trade to the Miami Heat, where he won a championship opposite Dwyane Wade.
“There never was a hatchet. I’m not worried about that,” responds Shaq. “That’s something that happened and I didn’t think it would’ve gone on, but there was never a hatchet. As a leader, sometimes you gotta do certain things, like, if I owned The Daily Beast and you came back with a bad article and I know your potential, I’d be like, ‘That’s some bullshit,’ and you’d either punk up and quit, or say, ‘Oh, it’s bullshit?’ and write a better piece. It was my job to get everyone to play at a high level. People want things to go perfectly, and if you really look at it, three out of four championships is pretty perfect. I’m glad and honored to be the most enigmatic, controversial, and dynamic one-two punch in Lakers and NBA history.”
He pauses again to ponder the question. “There never was a hatchet,” he adds of Kobe. “It was two guys competing. But one thing you can say about Shaquille O’Neal is he always played the right way. That’s all I wanted to ever do, is play the right way. So I never took anything personally.”
Unfortunately it appears like Bryant and O’Neal will always have these stories linked to them when their legacy is talked about. Maybe rightfully so, but at some point reporters should move on from the past and ask questions relevant to basketball.
I get it though, everyone wants a sound bite or a quote that will get them page views. Hopefully we can get past this, but something tells me these same questions will come up when the Black Mamba enters the Basketball Hall of Fame in a few years.