Kobe Bryant's comments after 2010 NBA Finals apparently planted seed for Shaq joining the Celtics
Welcome to Phase II of the Kobe/Shaq rivalry.
And if you believe the Celtics' principal owner, Wyc Grousbeck, Bryant planted the idea for Boston to acquire Shaquille O'Neal because of his comments to a question after Game 7 of the NBA Finals this spring regarding what a fifth NBA championship means to him.
"Just got one more than Shaq," Bryant said to a laughing press corps, which normally receives glares, rolled eyes and non-answers when they ask Kobe a Shaq-related question. "You can take that to the bank. You know how I am. I don't forget anything."
That probably includes Shaq's distasteful freestyle about Bryant after the Lakers lost in the 2008 NBA Finals. So why is it called Phase II? Bryant truly wants to win more titles than than Shaq and anyone else, but this rivalry is now just manufactured.
“The minute I heard Kobe [Bryant] say he had one more ring than Shaq, I said to [Celtics president] Danny [Ainge], ‘Let’s go get Shaq,’ and it happened,’’ Grousbeck told the Boston Globe's Gary Washburn.
Grousbeck may have actually said that, but I don't buy for a second the impression Boston wouldn't have come up with the idea in acquiring Shaq if not for Bryant's post-game comments.
It was just two years ago where the symbolic images of the 2009 All-Star game, at least superficially, showed their feud had ended. Bryant and O'Neal played alongside each other and were coached by none other than Phil Jackson. They also shared the MVP award, with Bryant scoring 27 points and Shaq adding 17 in the West's 146-119 victory over the East. The two even hugged each other. Shaq had remarked during the 2009 NBA Finals that the storyline of "Can Kobe win a title without Shaq" was misleading. He argued that Kobe would be the Lakers' greatest player of all time if they beat Boston in the 2010 NBA Finals.
The Times' Mark Heisler had observed during Kobe's and Shaq's All-Star reunion that their spat actually ended in 2006 and the two remain cordial, though they were never friends. But given the fact the Celtics again could meet the Lakers in the Finals -- Shaq's figured out the media game pretty well and we're very willing to accommodate -- this likely will become a repeated storyline. Just don't put too much stock in it.
E-mail the Lakers blog at firstname.lastname@example.org