Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant endured a true love-heat relationship while leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a three-peat between 2000-2003.
O’Neal and Bryant created one of the most dominant duos in NBA history. However, the two All-Star with big egos clashed constantly while with the team, which played a role in the center’s trade to the Miami Heat in 2004.
O’Neal and Bryant later made up and tried to change the perception of their relationship. In a recent appearance on the “Patrick Bet-David Podcast,” the former center said he wanted to press his teammate’s buttons to make sure he would “perform at a higher level”:
“He was alien-like. When he was 18, he used to be in a locker room, dribbling and shooting without the ball for hours. And then you see him practice the same move on the court. Like he was obsessed with being the best ever. I was obsessed with being the most dominant. He was obsessed with being the best ever. And sometimes you sacrifice a lot of things — and he did. All he did was work out. And I knew all he did was work out so I used to push his buttons all the time because I knew what I was going to give you. So if I know I could have somebody else that can give similar and more, I was definitely going to win. So, I was always the guy that presses buttons. The audience thought that it was a personal thing, we hated each other, but no, it was me and my leadership style and what I chose to do to get him to perform at a higher level.”
Asked how exactly O’Neal tried to motivate Bryant, the former center said he would tell his younger teammate he was still beneath him in the team’s hierarchy:
“Pressing buttons and saying, ‘This ain’t your team, this is my team, little man.’ You might be Kobe, but I’m the Shaq. And it would just eat him up inside and I would see that, and I would use that. Notice how out of all our interactions, Phil Jackson never intervened, you know? Like that. Because you got two animals going at it. And his only request was: on the court, make sure you play as one. And you know, that’s what we did.”
Despite the issues that flared up between them, O’Neal recognizes how special his partnership with Bryant was, calling it the “only super duo ever created” not long ago.
O’Neal responds to Bryant’s comments on work ethic
The beef between O’Neal and Bryant led to the latter saying their Lakers would have won many more titles if the center had committed to basketball as much as he did.
In a response to Bryant’s comments, Shaq recently pointed out his work ethic differed from his All-Star teammate’s because he already had family at that point that he had to take care of.
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