Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant Had to Be Separated So That They Could Shine

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant didn’t like each other in the beginning. First of all, their personalities were opposite–Shaq was more into his teammates, friendlier, and known for his good-humored personality, while Kobe was more of an introvert, business-like and ambitious, described as arrogant and selfish by some teammates. And second, because they were both alpha players on the court and, as the story goes, two roosters don’t share one coop.
Although Shaq and Kobe managed to bring the Lakers three championships and four NBA Finals appearances between 1999 and 2004, their hostile relationship culminated in Shaq being traded to Miami Heat in 2004. That year, Kobe faced criminal charges and was in and out of the courtroom throughout the 2003-04 season. During one of the game evenings, Shaq commented, “The full team is here,” although his antagonist was at training camp in Hawaii. In the opposite ring, Kobe said that it would have been better for the team if Shaq stopped “coming to camp fat and out of shape
Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (L) talks to teammate Shaquille O’Neal (R) late in the 4th quarter during Game One of the NBA Western Conference first round play-off against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Staples Center in Los Angeles 22 April 2001. (Photo Credit: Vince Bucci/AFP via Getty Images)

It was a sort of reality TV show for basketball fans, and although said as a joke, it was called “Lakers vs. Lakers” by David Stern, then-NBA commissioner. The verbal accusations continued. Kobe was in a quite unenviable position as he was also recovering from a knee injury and he had his court hearings for which he sometimes had flights to Colorado during the day and was back for the game in the evening. In the meantime, the charges against him were dropped, but Shaq still criticized him for playing while he was supposed to dedicate himself to a full recovery. Bryant answered that he knew how to play guard and that Shaq should have focused on playing in the post.

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