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Shaquille O'Neal says he admires Kobe Bryant's work ethic

November 17, 2011 | 11:51 am

In his book, Shaquille O'Nealmakes it clear that he never doubted Kobe Bryant's abilities
Shaquille O'Neal may still feel animosity toward Kobe Bryant for not passing the ball to him, questioning his work ethic and exposing his infidelities to law enforcement. He may take digs at Bryant's introverted nature or -- as detailed in his book, "Shaq Uncut" -- the Lakers star's "freestyle" rhymes on the team bus that sounded well-rehearsed. 

But throughout the 281-page book, co-written by Jackie MacMullan, O'Neal also makes it clear that he never doubted Bryant's abilities or overlooked the work ethic that defined a storied 15-year NBA career. 

"Even with all the back-and-forth crap between us, we understood we needed each other to win," O'Neal wrote. "Go back and look at any criticism I ever had of Kobe. Never once did I say the kid couldn't play. It was never about that."

Instead, it was about more petty things. Ego: Neither wanted to allow the other to be the team's first option. Distrust: The two rarely were together outside of basketball and always remained skeptical of one another's intentions. Motivation: In a twisted way, their animosity often fueled their performances for the better.

But when it comes to Bryant's talent, Shaq is just like everyone else who admires the Black Mamba's basketball abilities -- so much so that he says he considers the Lakers star to the the best NBA player. 

"Kobe is a scientific dawg," O'Neal wrote. "He works out every day, practices every day. Most of the other stars are just dawgs, not scientific dawgs. Kobe will always have the edge because of his range and killer instinct. LeBron has the killer instinct, but he can't shoot like Kobe can." 

O'Neal says he witnessed that firsthand. In one passage, he recalled Bryant showing up to practice at least three hours early nearly every day, working on some part of his game. 

"Sometimes he'd be working on his moves without the ball," O'Neal wrote. "You'd walk in there and he'd be cutting and grunting and motioning like he was dribbling and shooting -- except there was no ball. I thought it was weird, but I'm pretty sure it helped him."

That's why Shaq said he didn't take offense when Bryant boasted after the Lakers' 2010 championship against Boston that he now had more rings than his former teammate.

"Hey, I couldn't blame the guy," O'Neal wrote. "He was holding the trophy, so he had bragging rights."


Shaquille O'Neal believes Phil Jackson will coach the Knicks

-- Mark Medina

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Photo: Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal at Staples Center in 2000 after winning the first of three consecutive championships. Credit: Los Angeles Times