October 31, 2011
If you've followed basketball for any amount of time over the past decade, you are probably well aware that Shaquille O'Neal(notes) and Kobe Bryant(notes) don't get along with each other particularly well. Even before Shaq was traded to the Heat in 2004, it was common knowledge that their relationship had become untenable. Since then, there have been profane freestyle raps, barely veiled insults, and plenty of other incidents. It's the feud that won't die. The NBA even promoted it as its top rivalry for years after Shaq had lost his status as one of the best big men in the game.
Now that O'Neal is retired and a full-time media personality, he's written a new book about his life and career with the help Hall of Fame writer Jackie MacMullan called "Shaq Uncut: My Story." Not surprisingly, there are several stories about Kobe. Deadspin has several excerpts, which we have excerpted even further after the jump.
So I'm on edge because I don't have a new deal, and Kobe is on edge because he might be going to jail, so we're taking it out on each other. Just before the start of the '03-'04 season the coaching staff called us in and said, "No more public sparring or you'll get fined." ... Phil was tired of it. Karl Malone and Gary Payton were sick of it. ... So what happens? Immediately after that Kobe runs right out to Jim Gray and does this interview where he lets me have it. He said I was fat and out of shape. He said I was milking my toe injury for more time off, and the injury wasn't even that serious. (Yeah, right. It only ended my damn career.) He said I was "lobbying for a contract extension when we have two Hall of Famers playing pretty much for free." I'm sitting there watching this interview and I'm gonna explode. Hours earlier we had just promised our coach we'd stop. It was a truce broken. I let the guys know, "I'm going to kill him."
Kobe stands up and goes face-to-face with me and says, "You always said you're my big brother, you'd do anything for me, and then this Colorado thing happens and you never even called me." I did call him. ... So here we are now, and we find out he really was hurt that we didn't stand behind him. That was something new. I didn't think he gave a rat's ass about us either way. "Well, I thought you'd publicly support me, at least," Kobe said. "You're supposed to be my friend."
Brian Shaw chimed in with "Kobe, why would you think that? Shaq had all these parties and you never showed up for any of them. We invited you to dinner on the road and you didn't come. Shaq invited you to his wedding and you weren't there. Then you got married and didn't invite any of us. And now you are in the middle of this problem, this sensitive situation, and now you want all of us to step up for you. We don't even know you." ...
Everyone was starting to calm down when I told Kobe, "If you ever say anything like what you said to Jim Gray ever again, I will kill you."
Kobe shrugged and said, "Whatever."
From that day on, I was done dealing with Kobe. I was done dealing with Jim Gray, too. What goes around, comes around. When he got fired, he actually had the nerve to call me and ask me to help him out. What, did you lose Kobe's number?
He was so young and so immature in some ways, but I can tell you this: everything Kobe is doing now, he told me all the way back then he was going to do it. We were sitting on the bus once and he told me, "I'm going to be the number one scorer for the Lakers, I'm going to win five or six championships, and I'm going to be the best player in the game." I was like, "Okay, whatever." Then he looked me right in the eye and said, "I'm going to be the Will Smith of the NBA."
My first Lakers season we had a couple of rookies, and we hazed them pretty badly. We were dogging them out constantly. It was "Go get my bags, go get me something to eat." It was kind of a rite of passage in the NBA that a lot of teams do, but we probably went a little too far with it. One of the rookies—Derek Fisher(notes)—just took it. The other rookie—Kobe Bryant—ratted us out to Jerry West.
There's more in the Deadspin post, including some tough-guy talk aimed at Jim Gray and a very silly, unnecessary story about snail-mail correspondence with Halle Berry during Shaq's time at LSU. The Kobe passages are the clear headline grabbers here.
The specifics of their falling out are interesting, even if their feud is old news for NBA fans. Lakers fans will be especially interested, I'm sure. But who outside of Los Angeles still harps on these he-said, he-said tiffs? Now that Shaq's retired, does Kobe even care anymore?
We'll find out if Shaq's book doesn't sell many copies. With stories like this one, it's the market that ultimately determines relevance.
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