Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal formed one of the most dominant duos in NBA history in the early 2000s, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to three straight championships.
Of course during that time, Shaq was at his absolute peak as clearly the most dominant player in the league. Kobe was one of the top players in the league as well, but was undoubtedly the second option as everything ran through the big man in the middle.
This led to many saying that Kobe was simply riding the coattails of Shaq, something that didn’t sit well with him. Kobe made an appearance on The Hollywood Reporter’s Awards Chatter Podcast and spoke about that talk of being a supporting player driving him to prove that he could win without Shaq:
“It was just an itch. They kept putting me in the bucket of, ‘You’re a supporting cast player, you’re a supporting cast player,’ and I was like, ‘Dude, no I’m not.’ You know? And it became this obsession to prove it.”
There is no shame in being the second option to someone like Shaq, but for someone like Kobe, who is always looking for extra motivation, this would drive him to be his absolute best.
Of course, Kobe would eventually accomplish his goal, winning back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010 to give him five total for his career. Shaq would win one more ring after leaving the Lakers, but Kobe ultimately surpassed him, giving him bragging rights.
Even though they had their differences, the two now share a mutual respect and Shaq even called them the most dominant duo in Lakers history recently. In the end, both players accomplished a lot together and seperate, leaving them as top-10 players in the history of the league.