However, even years later, the feud between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal is clearly still alive and well. Speaking at the PHP Convention in Las Vegas this week, Bryant was asked about O’Neal and brought up the big man’s work ethic. He admitted that if Shaq had his kind of work ethic, Kobe could’ve had 12 rings during his NBA career.
“He’d be the greatest of all time,” Bryant said. “He’d be the first to tell you that. This guy was a force like I have never seen. It was crazy. Generally, guys at that size are a little timid and they don’t want to be big. This dude did not care. He was mean, he was nasty. He was competitive. He was vindictive. I wish he was in the gym. I would’ve had f—–g 12 rings.”
Bryant went on to criticize O’Neal for not being in shape throughout his career and having problems getting up and down the court on the fast break at times.
“We used to get into stuff all the time. If you were in shape, by the time I run down on the fast break and run back then run down, you’re still coming down the first time. A lot of our contention came from that.”
O’Neal did hear Bryant’s comments loud and clear and responded on Instagram with Bryant’s “12 rings” comment in it.
“U woulda had twelve if u passed the ball more especially in the finals against the pistons #facts,” O’Neal stated. “You don’t get statues by not working hard.”
Bryant and O’Neal led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles from 2000 to 2002 as one of the premiere dynasties that the league has ever seen. The two clashed often and ultimately resulted in O’Neal demanding a trade in 2004. O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat, where he won another NBA title alongside Dwyane Wade in 2006.
While some may perceive that Bryant and O’Neal still hold a beef, Bryant wants to make it clear that the two are, in fact, on good terms. Bryant even went as far as to tweet on Wednesday that there isn’t any bad blood following his comments making their rounds on social media.
Kobe and Shaq were arguably the most talented dynamic duo in NBA history and have the rings to back it up. While the two did have a fair amount of success without each other, it’s always interesting to ponder what might’ve been if O’Neal stayed in Los Angeles for several years following the three-peat.