In the early 2000s, the Los Angeles Lakers won three straight NBA championships behind the combined brilliance of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
However, the supposed tension between the two has been well-documented over the years.
Many, including O’Neal and Bryant themselves, how downplayed how bad things were back then, but there was no doubt that the two weren’t always the best of friends.
The Hall of Fame center has claimed on multiple occasions that he concocted the drama between himself and Bryant to generate interest in the team on a national scale.
During a recent episode of the “Patrick Bet-David Podcast,” O’Neal talked about how he would get on the superstar guard’s nerves to get him to play his best.
“He was alien-like. When he was 18, he used to be in a locker room, dribbling and shooting without the ball for hours. And then you see him practice the same move on the court. Like he was obsessed with being the best ever. I was obsessed with being the most dominant. He was obsessed with being the best ever. And sometimes you sacrifice a lot of things — and he did. All he did was work out. And I knew all he did was work out so I used to push his buttons all the time because I knew what I was going to give you. So if I know I could have somebody else that can give similar and more, I was definitely going to win. So, I was always the guy that presses buttons. The audience thought that it was a personal thing, we hated each other, but no, it was me and my leadership style and what I chose to do to get him to perform at a higher level.”
When O’Neal went into greater detail, it appeared that perhaps he did exasperate the tension between himself and Bryant.
“Pressing buttons and saying, ‘This ain’t your team, this is my team, little man.’ You might be Kobe, but I’m the Shaq. And it would just eat him up inside and I would see that, and I would use that. Notice how out of all our interactions, Phil Jackson never intervened, you know? Like that. Because you got two animals going at it. And his only request was: on the court, make sure you play as one. And you know, that’s what we did.”
Although many focus on their supposed feud and how many championships they may have left on the table after their split in 2004, the focus should be on how phenomenally successful they were in such a short span.
After all, only the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls had also managed to win three straight NBA titles.