Mon Sep 20 11:30am EDT
Just after the Los Angeles Lakers won last season's title, Kobe Bryant(notes) let slip a little comment ("I just got one more than Shaq. You can take that to the bank. You know how I am, I don't forget anything.") that proved what a lot of people had suspected for years — the Kobe/Shaq feud isn't over. As much as they'll be buddy-buddy at All-Star games or before their teams play each other, these two want nothing more than to destroy each other and prove that they are the best player of their generation. No matter what they say or how they act, that's always going to be the case.
In fact, the fact that that enmity will never die is the very reason the Boston Celtics took a chance on Shaquille O'Neal(notes). No, really, it is. Just because Kobe Bryant mentioned Shaq at his postgame press conference, the Celtics inked the well-traveled big man. Seriously. The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn has the proof.
When Kendrick Perkins(notes) was felled with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in Game 6 against the Lakers, adding a big man became a priority. Shaquille O'Neal made it no secret, even in his whisper-quiet voice, that Boston was his preferred sixth NBA destination. And after a flirtation with Kwame Brown(notes), Celtics president Danny Ainge agreed with [principal owner Wyc] Grousbeck that O'Neal would be an appropriate fit.
"The minute I heard Kobe [Bryant] say he had one more ring than Shaq, I said to Danny, ‘Let's go get Shaq,' and it happened,'' said Grousbeck.
Oh, great. Now that it's come out that Kobe Bryant is the reason the Celtics ended up with Shaq, Boston fans are going to hate the Lakers superstar even more. As if they needed fuel for that fire.
[Rewind: New Celtic Shaq crashes Boston wedding]
Of course, this could be all a part of Kobe's master plan. It probably went something like beat the Celtics, rile up Shaquille O'Neal, have him convince Boston he'll help because he wants to beat Kobe one last time, then Boston signs Shaq and realizes he's not quite as good as he used to be and his presence in the locker room destroys the fragile chemistry that the Celtics have built. Just like that, there's one less contender for the Lakers' third straight title. It's a genius move, and it's one that only Kobe Bryant could conceive. And while it's totally far-fetched, it's kind of not that far-fetched. Only moderate distance-fetched, I'd say.
That being said, if Shaquille O'Neal is as dedicated to besting Kobe Bryant as the Celtics' brass thinks he is, Boston's getting a great deal. Less than $1.5 million for a motivated Shaq is totally worth it, even if he only plays 20 minutes a game. Sure he might struggle mightily against hyperathletic teams like the Heat and Magic in the Eastern Conference playoffs before Boston even meets the Lakers in the finals, but those are just minor details.