Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant might have won three NBA championships together, but their relationship on and off the court was never the greatest. They even got into a fight once during practice, with Shaq slapping the young Bryant before LA Lakers teammates separated them.
Renowned American sports writer Jeff Pearlman released a book about the early 2000s Lakers dynasty back in September 2020. It was titled “Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years of the Lakers Dynasty.”
One of the things Pearlman included in the book was Shaq and Kobe’s argument during practice that led to their first physical fight. The young Mamba would say things like:
“I’m tired of this Sh*t. Just play.”
“Yeah, motherfu***r! That Sh*t ain’t gonna stop me.”
“Aw, fu*k you. You don’t know…”
The last one got Shaq so pissed that he slapped Bryant hard. It almost turned into a full-blown fight before the rest of the team separated the heated stars. Nevertheless, the two went on to win three NBA championships together from 2000 to 2002 under head coach Phil Jackson.
The two LA Lakers legends spoke about the incident in a special episode of “Players Only” on NBA TV in Feb. 2018. Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal discussed the fight that happened at Southwest College near the LA Lakers training facility.
“We were playing a pickup game,” Bryant said. “It was lockout season, Southwest College, we were playing a pickup game. We’re on opposite teams and trash-talking. And you kept saying, ‘Yeah, take that, lil b*tch, take that, lil b*tch.’ I’m looking around like, ‘F**ker’s talking to me!’ And I said, ‘Hold on, there ain’t gonna be too many more of those.’
“To which you said, ‘What you gonna do about it? What you gonna do about it?’ Next thing I knew, I saw a big hand coming this way, and I remember going this way. And I remember throwing some lollipop sh*t, Olden Polynice came and caught, and then they all just kinda broke us apart, broke us up.”
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Fight between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant turned into success
In some cases, a fight between teammates would cause a rift that would be irreparable. However, it was a different case for Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant and the LA Lakers.
The fight made Shaq and Kobe realize that they wanted to win as much as the other. They became one of the most formidable duo in NBA history, winning three straight NBA championships from 2000 to 2002. They also made it to the 2004 NBA Finals, but the Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons in five games.
The duo could have won more championships, but Shaquille O’Neal was aging and Kobe Bryant wanted to be the alpha on his team. They parted ways in the summer of 2004, with Shaq winning another title in 2006 with the Miami Heat. Kobe would win two more in 2009 and 2010.
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