Aside from his four NBA rings, post dominance and questions about his work ethic, Shaquille O'Neal's legacy also will include his strong track record in trashing former teammates.
The top target has been and will always remain Kobe Bryant. But in excerpts leaking out from his book "Shaq Uncut: My Story," it appears the work he did with respected hoops writer Jackie MacMullan also throws some barbs at LeBron James. Aside from James' disappearing playoff act in 2010, O'Neal also notices how former Cavaliers coach Mike Brown remained hesitant in pointing out James' defensive shortcomings. So much that Delonte West called out Brown about it after glossing over some of those shortcuts in a film session. No word, though, on whether Brown held back on O'Neal's own poor defense, but that's a topic for another day.
"Our coach, Mike Brown, was a nice guy, but he had to live on edge because nobody was supposed to be confrontational with LeBron," O’Neal wrote, as reported by Hoopsworld's Alex Kennedy. "Nobody wanted him to leave Cleveland, so he was allowed to do whatever he wanted to do."
This raises more questions about how Brown will handle Bryant. He remains forever competitive, but even former coach Phil Jackson struggled in maintaining a balance between giving the superstar space and reining him in when he broke away from team concepts. Of course, O'Neal noticed the difference between how Brown might coach Bryant compared to former Lakers assistant Brian Shaw, who was passed up for the job.
"I’m not sure if Kobe is going to listen to Mike Brown," O'Neal wrote. "LeBron never really did. Here’s what we do know: Kobe will definitely be in charge.... "
In another passage, O'Neal wrote: "Somehow Kobe and I made it through the rest of the [2003-04 season] without any major issues. BShaw managed to get us back on track. It’s kind of funny when you think about it. All of these supposed Lakers leaders who care so much about the franchise, all these Lakers legends, none of them ever had the courage to say anything to Kobe and me. Not Kareem, not Magic, not Mitch Kupchak, none of them. Only Brian Shaw took us on. Yet when the Lakers job came up in 2011 they didn’t give Brian Shaw a chance by looking right past him. Go figure."
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-- Mark Medina
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Photo: Kobe Bryant, left, and Shaquille O'Neal share a Lakers bench but little else in May 2004. Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times