Both NBA and Lakers fans are aware of the rumors of tension between their two former star players, Shaquille O’Neal and the late Kobe Bryant. The two spent many years as teammates, leading the Lakers to win three consecutive championships. The years have gone by with the dust being settled, and after Kobe Bryant’s untimely passing, O’Neal is opening up more on their relationship. According to Shaquille O’Neal, the beef between the two was fake.
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal both joined the Lakers squad in 1996. Bryant was drafted fresh out of high school while Shaquille O’Neal, who was already an established center, had been drafted from the Orlando Magic. From there, rumors began to swirl of Kobe Bryant’s apparent arrogance and selfishness and seeming jealousy on Shaq’s end. It was also reported that issues between the two escalated so bad at times that they reportedly got physical.
Public shots would ensue between the two in the media for years before Shaquille O’Neal would eventually be traded to the Miami Heat. But the public would begin to see the relationship between O’Neal and Bryant soften over time. Reports soon began to arise that the person to blame for their presumed feuding was then Lakers coach, Phil Jackson. Former Lakers player Robert Horry doubled down on those claims with Russian sports outlet Sports.ru stating his belief that Jackson “started the feud” and that their coach “liked it when there was conflict of some sort.” He also claimed that the media was one of the factors that their beef was “blown out of proportion.”
Following Kobe’s untimely passing, we began to see more from an emotional standpoint how their relationship was from Shaquille O’Neal’s mouth as he began to open up and get more candid. During an appearance on the “Full Send Podcast with Druski,” the Kazaam actor likened their relationship more as a brotherhood. But as it pertained to the feud, Shaq said that he played a part in “perpetuating it out of the locker room. Because one thing I understood was marketing,” he said.
When the media began to speak heavily of the Shaq-Kobe feud, O’Neal explained that how satisfying that was as it was “all he wanted.” Admittedly though, Shaq shares that their scheme “went too far” as to where things began to become more believable. The TNT sports analyst went on to state, “If you believed it, if we believed it, you think we’d win three out of four? If it was real, you think that when we won our first championship…one guy runs and jumps in my arm. So, all it was was a respectful big brother-little brother relationship.”
Shaquille O’Neal added, “You don’t always have to agree. You don’t always have to be pussyfooting around, kissing each other, holding hands. It’s all about respect.” He went on to list some of the things that he respected about Bryant and what he felt his former teammate respected about him. O’Neal also stated that they both shared the same mentality and that when it comes to business he’s very understanding of it. Watch the conversation below at the 29:00 minute mark.