Shaq-Kobe cold war officially over?

VIDEO: Kobe Bryant talks about his relationship with Shaq

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The thaw began a while ago, with each side admitting to past wrongs and their own complicity in one of the coldest wars in the history of sports.

Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant feuded for years, first as teammates in Los Angeles with the Lakers, and later after they had parted ways. They won titles, three in a row, in spite of their very real beef that always seemed destined to derail one of the greatest 1-2 punches basketball had ever seen.

But now, with Shaq retired and settled in comfortably as a member of the Emmy Award-winning Inside The NBA on TNT and headed for the Hall of Fame, and Kobe in the twilight of his future Hall of Fame career, the good vibrations appear to be rolling between the two. When word surfaced last week that Shaq had Kobe on his “The Big Podcast” (available today) and the former dynamic duo had cleared the air, it became obvious that the longstanding battle between the two was officially over.

Shaq’s opening lines, per a report from Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times, said it all:

“I just want people to know that I don’t hate you, I know you don’t hate me. I call it today a ‘work beef,’ is what we had,” said O’Neal, who retired after the 2010-11 season. “I was young, you was young. But then as I look at it, we won three [championships] out of four so I don’t really think a lot was done wrong. So I just wanted to clear the air and let everybody know that, no, I don’t hate you. We had a lot of disagreements, we had a lot of arguments. But I think it fueled us both.”

With Shaq Week invading NBA TV this week, the unveiling of the full podcast sheds even more light on the recovery process for these former teammates and NBA titans. We’ve heard plenty of stories and theories from other folks who were there, involved and observing the reality show that was the Shaq-Kobe Lakers. This is the first time we’ve had the two stars of the show discuss it together.

Some 11 years after their nasty public break up, hearing both men reflect on their tumultuous time together is revealing. More from the Times:

Bryant, 37, recalled the time when he and O’Neal almost came to blows in 1999.

Bryant was 21 at the time, but he wasn’t going to back down to the 7-foot-1, 330-pound O’Neal.

“In ’99, I think Shaq realized that this kid is really competitive and he’s a little crazy,” said Bryant, who is heading into what could be his final NBA season. “And I realized that I probably had a couple of screws loose because I nearly got into a fistfight and I actually was willing to get into a fight with this man. I went home and I was like, ‘Dude, I’ve either got to be the dumbest or the most courageous kid on the face of the Earth.'”

O’Neal viewed it then as an affront to his authority as the team leader, but these days he sees it differently.

“That just showed me, ‘You know what, this kid ain’t going to back down to nobody,'” O’Neal said. “Kobe seen me punk everybody in the league. So when this kid would stand up every day [to me], I’m like, ‘This kid ain’t going to back down.’ I knew then, if I’m down by one and I kick it out to someone, he’s going to shoot it and he’s going to make it.”

Both Bryant and O’Neal laughed.

“He was either going to beat the . . . out of me or I was going to get it done,” Bryant said. “I was comfortable with either one.”

Clearly, time heals all wounds, even in the most bitter of disputes. And to their credit, these guys didn’t wait until they were ancient to do this. All of us who watched them in their primes, together and apart, know what might have been if they could have co-existed without all of the drama and certainly a little longer.

Of course, the late and great Dr. Jerry Buss was not having it. He traded Shaq to the Miami Heat just weeks after the Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons in The Finals in 2004. And it did allow both players to move on and both to win titles without each other (Shaq snagged his with the Heat in 2006 and Kobe won back-to-back titles with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010).

VIDEO: Shaq was a physical force of nature in his days with the Lakers

Legendary Lakers coach Phil Jackson reportedly never took sides, but Buss bet on his young star after watching Kobe and Shaq butt heads for eight years. The way it went down, however, was straight out of a Hollywood script, per the Times:

Buss wasn’t happy, adding to the tension O’Neal had with Bryant. Buss traded O’Neal to Miami on July 14, 2004, ending the pair’s eight-year partnership. Buss then placed his bets on Bryant, re-signing the guard the very next day to a seven-year, $136-million deal.

“Again, it was two alpha males and the business aspect kicked in,” O’Neal said. “I was getting older. Management was like, ‘Hey, you’re getting older, we know you want this, but we want to give you that.’ And in my mind, ‘I’m not getting older. I don’t want that. I don’t want that.’ And they just wanted to move in a new direction.”

Bryant suggested imagining Wilt Chamberlain in his prime playing with up-and-coming Michael Jordan, and Jordan decides he wants to take the controls.

“How long is that going to last before Michael says, ‘You know what, it’s time for me to show what I can do,'” Bryant said, adding of O’Neal, “That’s why he and I are one of a kind when it comes to tandems, because you literally had two alpha males playing together on one team and that normally does not happen.”

We might not ever see another inside-out tandem as dominant as Shaq and Kobe were in their heyday. We might never see it again because of Shaq and Kobe and the way they dealt with each other during that wild eight-year run they had together.

But for those of us lucky enough to witness it all up close and (for me at that time from the other side of the conference divide), there couldn’t a wilder or more entertaining ride.

VIDEO: Kobe Bryant’s career milestones are as good it gets


  1. tdlg says:

    The fact we have to hear about those two again shows how little substance the NBA brings now.

    The feud was a joke, NBA players acting like wanna be gangsters.
    They were both arrogant, selfish team mates. I just cant figure out why anyone played with these fools.

    Kobe wants to take every shot and Shaq wanted to Lebron his way into every dunk.
    But it was Big Shot Bobby that they both ran to.

    Maybe he should have the beef, to have to carry both of those cry baby’s.

  2. kobeshaq says:

    kobe bean bryant n shaq diesel made me fall in love wid ball along wid iverson,duncan,kg and billups, but those lakers are my die hard team its lakersover rest of nba

  3. Mark from Bayarea says:

    If league did not fired up Kobe and Shaq relationship, the dominence of Lakers wouldn never be over.
    The Lakers could have got CP3, but the league blocked it.
    So, basically the LEAGUE was hoping Lakers to be doomed just like Celtics, so other new markets can emerge.
    It seems like conspiracy theory, but it is what it is!!

  4. taekayo says:

    The truth is, the league needed that drama at that time, that’s why the media just fueled the fire that much. Its was the after-MJ era when the NBA as a business is not generating as much buzz as before. It was a time of 1-star-per-team league (eg. Philly-AI, Kidd-NJ), that the issue is more about the length of the shorts being worn, and where almost everybody hates the dullness of Duncan and the Spurs (believe me, the offense of the Spurs today is much more entertaining than it was).

    I mean, the stars that time (Duncan, AI, KG, Kidd, GP, TMac, Allen etc.) were no scrubs, and should have HOF Awards under their belts. But if you’ve watched a league that had Olajuwon, Malone and Stockton, Sir Charles, Clyde, Reggie, D. Robinson, Ewing, Shaq and Penny, GP and Kemp, a young Grant Hill, and still witness MJ dominate them all, you know that generation was special. Arguably the Golden Age of the NBA.

    Shaq and Kobe was too dominant during their time, there wasn’t much competition, and probably only the Spurs can put up a good fight against them. They just have to make that feud larger than life so as to keep the audience interested.

  5. bayaraa says:

    it is good to hear kobe and shaq make a peace. kobe is my favorite player in the nba. he is the GOAT.

  6. Alfred says:

    This is just too much. I mean, they were kind of good in their brief time, but c’mon move on already. I can see the Wilt Chamberlain comparison with Shaq who was dominant in his prime, but Kobe shut up comparing yourself to MJ. If you have to say it then it doesn’t mean anything. Stack them up against other great championship teams like the Bulls, Celtics, previous Lakers, even the Spurs, and they would lose. Period.

    • Kindness says:

      Oh and I know you are a hater and get mad at that comparison. But FACE REALITY Kobe is closer to MJ than the STAR in your mind although not as good. MJ admits himself that he can beat anyone in the NBA but Kobe. Guess you don’t know more than he does.

  7. sports fan says:

    So many people say “they could’ve won more” but the truth is they couldn’t. And that’s because of who they are – two alphas. Theoretically they could’ve won more but in reality they both wanted to be the top dog & ultimately that can never work out in the long run. When MJ came out of his first retirement Pippen was fine to being #2 again, which is why they 3-peated a second time. 3 championships was the maximum limit Shaq & Kobe were able to win as a duo. No more & no less.

    • Kindness says:

      Pippen is great but he is no way near Kobe. MJ is obviously better than Pippen so there weren’t feud. Shaq and Kobe? That’s a debate that can go on

  8. Mladen says:

    These “Lakers years” and their three titles in early 2000s carry a huge shadow of their “victories” over Kings in playoffs. I stopped watching NBA for two years after those terrible ref decisions. Clearly, Kings deserved at least one, if not two, of those titles and lost them only thanks to refs.

    They were so much better than Shaq and Kobe, played beautiful basketball, but lost only due to lack of comercial potential that Shaq and Kobe had. I don’t think that happens today, but 15 years ago NBA desperately needed another Jordan, another larger than life team. Ex commissioner didn’t know how to keep NBA popular without Michael, so he pushed the Lakers. Late 2000s Lakers titles were much more deserved, even though one was won against my own Celtics.

  9. dustydreamnz says:

    I think this is great they’ve got through it. Everyone has feuds in life, it’s how you react to it that counts. Sure, it would have been nice if they’d sorted it ages ago but better late than never as they say. Made my day.

  10. Kal says:

    blaming them not getting more rings on the feud..

    Shaq in his youth knocked out by 1) peak Hakeem + Drexler 2) MJ, Pippen, Rodman 3) Stockton & Malone
    Shaq had maybe one bad loss in 99 to Pop, Robinson & Duncan but the Lakers needed better coaching… when they got it, they threepeated…
    in 2003 they lost from lack of depth and Kobe had an injury..
    in 2004 they lost because the depth they added was washed up and the Pistons were flat out better…
    in 2005 Shaq almost won and Kobe had no hope with that team…
    in 2006 Shaq on, Kobe made it back to playoffs, was tearing up league scoring, was on his way again…
    in 2007 Shaq was just too old now, Kobe pre-Pau was coming up against other greater teams (Suns, Spurs)…
    in 2008 nobody was beating those Boston Celtics…
    in 2009 Kobe won..
    in 2010 Kobe won…
    in 2011 Lakers once again got too cozy like back in 2003, didn’t add any pieces, got beat bad by a retooled team…
    in 2012 Lakers needed Phil to have a shot back to Finals at least…
    in 2013 the team was a mess again, falling for the same washed up veteran disaster like back in 2004…
    and the millennium era was over…

    while they never had any superheroic victories (99, 2003 & 2004 would have been), there was also no real failure anywhere… this is all just media / hater-fan myth caused by needing to measure up to the good fortunes of the 90’s Bulls…

  11. parkmanor22 says:

    Kobe & Michael Jordan was SUPER DUPER!!!

  12. parkmanor22 says:

    I am glad Kobe and Shaq have made PEACE with one another!!!

  13. D says:

    This whole feud was very pathetic and given far more media attention and hype than it deserved. Two of the biggest egos in league history acting like very overgrown kids.

  14. KingdomMan says:

    Once again, it’s not about what Kobe has achieved, it’s the fact that he could AND should have achieved SO MUCH MORE! How can anyone disagree with that, even Shaq says the same thing. I will gladly say that whilst I think that Kobe got rid of Shaq and PJ, they were far from perfect also.

  15. NBAFAN says:

    It alway amazes me when I hear Laker haters and Kobe haters, if Kobe was mild mannered or submissive in his approach to basketball he would never have achieved anything in his career, but because he wanted to achieve excellence and wanted to win at any cost he is looked down upon.

    What he achieved because in his career no more than 5 other players ever did, and he will be remembered as one of the greatest that ever played, so to all you lame ducks out there enjoy his last year as a player because you will be waiting a long time to see another great like him.

    The closest thing to Jordan ever and in his prime probably as good according to Jordan Google it.

  16. augie casarrez says:

    In watching these 2 great players for years, they both demonstrated a high ego, instead of carrying a mild mannerism in order to get along. You will always rub people off the wrong way, A little humble goes a long way So it is in every day life, people must get along, especially your teamates. Supers stars should not carry this aura, as have turned off many.

  17. alli says:

    Who care what happened it old skool

  18. KingdomMan says:

    It’s nice to see 2 men mature and put their grievances aside. But the bottom line is they severely underachieved and guess who is to blame? They won 3 rings together but could and should have won 6/7. Shaq wrote in “Shaq talks back…” that coach Del Harris would sit KB down after yet another stupid play/dumb shot, then Jerry Buss would send one of his cronies down to Harris and order him to put Kobe back into the game. From then on, it was all over as Kobe knew he ruled the franchise forever more. the writing was on the wall, then Kurt Rambis also began pandering to kb as well. You can’t hold that against Kobe for that happening but his ego grew and grew and all they did fan the flames that would eventually burn their house down, they are makers of their own destinies. I will gladly criticise Shaq all day for his shocking lack of work ethic and his ever ballooning weight but I honestly feel he does not get enough credit for his unselfishness and intelligence. Kb had a cast iron work ethic but despite his protestations, it’s apparent that what he cares about mostly is padding his scoring. Also, ask Pau Gasol, he too left the L.A. To play with a true unselfish superstar: Derrick Rose. As a Spurs fan, I knew we were in trouble when Shaq began complimenting KB, labelling him as the real MVP. I then laughed my head off when the inevitable happened, their petty bickering which began to unravel the team as i knew we were going to win a few more championships. So ultimately, thanks Shaq & Kobe!!!

  19. Michael M says:

    This has to be one of the most childish ridiculous displays by pro athletes ever in the history of sports.
    I have always been shocked that Shaq couldn’t be the bigger man, although Kobe has shown himself to be consistently one of the worst team mates ever – maybe only rivaled by Ty Cobb.

  20. purpngold says:

    Kobe is still the NBA’s biggest star. No other player brings the same excitement to the arena. Unrivaled skills that give the crowd the thrills they came to see, that is KB24. And as long as he is still playing, he righteously holds the crown.

    • Reggohllabami says:

      Such a Kobe worshipper you are, purpngold. Hope you enjoy that ball hog and his Fakers team missing the playoffs again

      • Han says:

        Such a hater you are. What team do you worship?
        Doesn’t matter if you hate him or love him.. if you don’t recognize the importance and significance that Kobe brought to NBA, you’re not a basketball fan.

      • Kindness says:

        I think Kobe won 5 more championships than you haha