Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant formed one of the most successful and efficient partnerships in NBA history.
The pair won three championships together with relative ease, and likely could’ve won more had they stayed together.
In 2004, after a disappointing Finals showing against the Detroit Pistons, the Lakers parted ways with O’Neal and pledged to build a new championship-level squad around Bryant.
The decision was met with much criticism from some fans. A lot of the hate was aimed at Bryant. He was called ‘spoiled’ and a ‘diva’ as a result of the break-up, and the lingering memory of that followed him for the entirety of his career.
Fortunately, albeit a bit too late, the narrative surrounding that whole situation has started to shift. It began with Jeanie Buss emerging and admitting the real reason O’Neal made his exit from LA.
And it continued this week, when O’Neal himself admitted the real reason his dynasty with Bryant collapsed.
“The reason why I got traded, it wasn’t about me and Kobe beefing,” O’Neal told Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on Showtime’s All The Smoke podcast.
“It was because they wanted me to take less money. I’m not doing that. I got money. I had money. I just should’ve been like, ‘Alright, I’ve raised you enough, its your team now. I know what I’m gonna do. I’m still gonna do my 28 and 10…But I was like ‘Nah, i want 150 [million].’”
As for why his relationship with Kobe originally soured, O’Neal admits that was probably his fault too.
Kendall keeps it real on Devin Booker. https://t.co/2kDdRFlc2Z
— Game 7 (@game7__) April 28, 2021
“He was a guy who wanted it right away,” O’Neal said. “And we all understand pecking order. It was my team. That ain’t about to happen. But I saw that he had something in him. This is where I wish a little more tactful. Egos get in the way…a lot of unnecessary stuff that shouldn’t have happened, happened, because of the ego, and it was probably my fault.”
This isn’t the first Bryant-related story to come out in recent days. Last week, an interview resurfaced where the Lakers legend described who the toughest player in the NBA for him to guard was. Prior to that, a funny story about Bryant at the 2008 Olympics came out.
Bryant’s impact on the Lakers, NBA and sport of basketball is undeniable. Hopefully as more and more people like O’Neal continue to speak out, some of the blemishes that are currently on his record will start being looked at with a little more context.
Charles Kruger has been credentialed to cover two Super Bowls, four NBA Finals, and one World Series. A 20-year veteran in the sports world, he has sources spanning the NBA, MLB, NFL, UFC and NASCAR. Currently residing in Los Angeles, Calif., he is Game 7’s go-to source for rumors surrounding the Lakers, Clippers and Dodgers.