Shaquille O'Neal book details mistrust with Kobe Bryant
Years removed from his public sparring from Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal proclaimed since then that the feuding served nothing more than a motivational tool between the two teammates and nothing more than a marketing tool for the general public.
O'Neal attempted saying that with a straight face when the two formally ended their feud in 2006, when they reunited for the 2009 NBA All-Star game and when he retired this offseason. Not that any of us believed it, but we can now say for sure that O'Neal still harbors ill will toward Bryant. "Shaq Uncut: My Story," his autobiography written with respected hoops writer Jackie MacMullan to be released Nov. 15, makes it pretty clear how Bryant's pending sexual-assault case and O'Neal's uncertain NBA future ultimately led the Big Fella to threaten Bryant during the 2003-04 season.
"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," according to an excerpt posted on Deadspin. "Just before the start of the '03-'04 season the coach 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?"
This probably serves as one of many examples outlining Shaq's feud with Kobe. The above anecdote, though, illustrates just enough how both proved guilty in escalating their fragmented relationship. The two stars could put those petty issues aside for the sake of winning championships for only so long. After winning three, however, it proved the ego, jealousy and mistrust between O'Neal and Bryant proved too difficult to overcome.
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Photo: Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, never all that friendly, share a moment at Staples Center after winning the first of three consecutive championships in 2000. Credit: Los Angeles Times