(Republished from April 2, 2013)
The night the Los Angeles Lakers retired Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey at Staples Center there was speculation the ceremony could get a bit awkward. Shaq is known for his larger than life attitude, but also for the various feuds and skirmishes he was involved in during his NBA career. During the ceremony Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant were in attendance — two basketball players Shaq has feuded with in the past.
But what happened with Kobe and Shaq?? You know, the one that resulted in Shaq getting shipped to Miami for Lamar Odom and a bag of Skittles and nearly ostracized Kobe from the Laker community?
Here’s a look back at the timeline of some of the more notable moments in the Shaq-Kobe feud, and how the two made amends before Kobe Bryant’s devastating passing.
The Early Years of Shaq and Kobe
1996: Shaquille and Kobe join the Los Angeles Lakers
1998: Shaq reportedly jealous of Kobe’s jersey sales, accuses Kobe of playing selfish basketball.
1999-2000: Shaq mocks Kobe’s crossover/turnovers during All-Star Game introductions; states it’s an inside joke between him and Kobe. The Lakers still manage to win the first of three consecutive NBA championships.
The Kobe and Shaq Rivalry Begins
2000-01: Shaq and Kobe feud openly during the season after Shaq comes into camp out of shape. Kobe states a new roster for change in play; Shaq still wants the ball to run through him in the post. Phil Jackson calls them both “juvenile.” Team cruises through the playoffs, prompting Shaq to call Bryant his “idol” following win in Game 1 of Western Conference Finals.
2001-02: Shaq and Kobe plays nice for most of the season. Ultimately ends in the team’s third consecutive championship.
2002-03: Team starts slow (11-19), Shaq drops “company time” line as Phil Jackson urges Kobe to be more aggressive. Results in strong numbers for Kobe, but Shaq’s inability to get healthy results in poor playoff seeding and loss to Spurs, ending the championship run.
2003-04: Kobe deals with rape accusations during the summer as team signs Karl Malone, Gary Payton. Kobe reportedly warns Phil Jackson that if Shaq starts a media war again, Kobe won’t hesitate to fire back. Shaq says “the full team is here” even though Bryant wasn’t at training camp, and says he wants to be healthy for his teammates but doesn’t mention Bryant on that list.
Shaq says Malone, Payton came to L.A. for one player, not two, dismissing Kobe. It also states that Bryant should focus on distributing rather than shooting while recovering from his knee injury. Kobe responds that he knows how to play guard and that Shaq should focus on playing in the post. Shaq indicates that Bryant should opt-out of his contract because he doesn’t plan on leaving Los Angeles. Jackson tells them both to shut up.
Brian Shaw mediates the argument between Shaq and Kobe after O’Neal yells “pay me” to Dr. Buss after a preseason dunk.
Bryant was upset at O’Neal for not attempting to reach out during his legal troubles, stating that Shaq was “supposed to be my friend.” Shaw asks Bryant why he doesn’t attend team dinners or events if that’s the case, even questioning Bryant not inviting teammates to his wedding. Phil Jackson fines Kobe for comments made to the press. Ultimately Kobe, Shaq, and the Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons in five games in the NBA Finals.
Following the season, the feud reaches a boiling point. L.A. doesn’t bring back Phil Jackson, and Mitch Kupchak says he would consider trading O’Neal, prompting Shaq to demand a trade. The team ultimately moves Shaq to Miami, and after flirting with the Clippers, Bryant signs a long-term extension with the Lakers.
2004-05: Shaq’s Heat faces Kobe’s Lakers on Christmas Day, registering the highest-rated regular-season NBA game since 1998. Shaq asks what happens to a Corvette (Bryant) that runs into a brick wall (Shaq) when discussing the first time Kobe attacks the basket. Ultimately Miami beats L.A. twice during the regular season.
Are Shaq and Kobe Friends? The Semi-Reconciliation
2005-06: Shaq and Kobe greet each other with handshakes and hugs before the Jan. 16 matchup, the first time since Shaq departed Los Angeles. Shaq ultimately praises Kobe’s 81-point performance against the Raptors, before helping the Heat win the NBA championship that season.
2006-07: Shaq says Kobe should have won regular-season MVP, which went to Dirk Nowitzki. Rumors also surfaced that Bryant forced the Lakers’ hand in trading Shaq, to which Bryant vehemently denies. Shaq ends up stating publicly he believes Bryant.
2007-08: Kobe and the Lakers lose to the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals, prompting Shaq to throw together an impromptu rap performance claiming Kobe can’t win without him. He also blames Kobe for telling his ex-wife about his extra-marital affairs, blaming Bryant for his divorce. Kobe doesn’t respond. Shaq states “it’s all done in fun.”
The Shaq and Kobe Relationship: Friendship
2008-09: Shaq blames the entire feud on Phil Jackson, saying he sensationalized it to the media. Bryant, Shaq are teammates once again at the All-Star Game. The two are named All-Star Game co-MVPs, and Bryant ultimately gives the trophy to O’Neal’s son. Kobe leads the Lakers to their first championship post-Shaq, and O’Neal supports Bryant on his Twitter account.
2009-10: Kobe leads the Lakers to another championship, giving him one more than Shaq (5-4). In the post-game press conference, Bryant states, “I got one more than Shaq now, and you can take that to the bank.” Again, Shaq congratulates Kobe on the championship, stating, “Congratulations Kobe, u deserve it. U played great. Enjoy it man enjoy it. I know what ur saying ‘Shaq how my ass taste’”
2010-11: Shaq retires from the NBA, essentially ending the on-court rivalry between himself and Bryant. When asked about leaving L.A. Shaq stated, “I don’t like to live in a world of ifs. But if we would have stayed, possibly we could have got six [championships].”
2011-12: Kobe passes Shaq on the all-time scoring list, prompting Shaq to say he was proud of Bryant’s accomplishments. Kobe opened up about the feud, stating that the two have a good relationship now and that the whole thing was a “good learning experience.”
2020: When Kobe unexpectedly passed away after a fatal helicopter crash in Southern California, it shocked the globe. Shaq was among the devastated to be losing an old friend, team player — someone he considered family by the end of their feud. “I haven’t felt a pain that sharp in a while,” he said on TNT’s “Remembering Kobe” tribute. “I lost a little brother.”
The Shaq and Kobe beef ended wholeheartedly the day Shaq said that the world lost the greatest Laker and basketball player of all time.
So there you have it. A (for the most part) complete rundown of the Shaq and Kobe feud. While the last few years of life without Kobe have been upsetting for many, one thing’s for sure: The Shaq and Kobe relationship lives on.