Sports Rivals, vol. 2

Izaac Williams, Writer

A Rivalry Between Teammates:

Eleven years after messy breakup with Lakers, Kobe and Shaq ...

This tale is known by NBA and sports fans all across the world, the rivalry between the two MVP caliber teammates with 3 consecutive rings in the 2000, 2001, and 2002 NBA seasons. The rivalry between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. In 1996 Lakers GM Jerry West acquired two rising stars who were already expected to be great. One was a 7’1 center who played for the Orlando Magic for four years from 1992-96 averaging 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 3 blocks per game. Then the other was a 17 year old shooting guard straight out of Lower Merion High School becoming the youngest player in the league. Kobe had an arrogant attitude immediately causing a couple of his teammates to dislike him as the first time he talked to his team Kobe said, “I’m Kobe Bryant, I dominate everything and everyone, I ain’t being punked by no one in this league.” This causing Shaq to call Kobe “showboat” because of his personality and flashy moves.

The First Fight:

Kobe Bryant Reminisces on Fist Fight He Had With Shaquille O'Neal - Lakers Daily

As time passed Kobe was quickly becoming one of the best as Shaq was still the same tank engine he’s always been. But although Shaq and Kobe were progressing, the Lakers squad definitely wasn’t and Shaq was getting impatient and angry about having no ring. Shaq was averaging nearly 30 points per game and told management he doesn’t want to babysit Kobe who was averaging 15 points per game and only 2 assists in the 1998 season. During the summer Kobe and Shaq played a 2 on 2 at practice and during the game Shaq was calling a lot of fouls and this began to rile Kobe up causing the two to argue which led to Shaq slapping Kobe across his face. The two were separated by teammates and at the start of the 1999 season Shaq called Kobe selfish because of his poor start and the two did not get along.

A New Head Coach:

Lakers News: Jerry West Says Phil Jackson, Shaquille O'Neal And Kobe Bryant Never Should Have Separated - Lakers Nation

After the 1999 playoffs the Lakers were swept again and they fired Dell Harris and got a new head coach named Phil Jackson. Jackson was the coach who led Michael Jordan and the Bulls to six NBA titles and was already considered one of the greatest coaches in sports history. Immediately with the new head coach everything began to snap for the LA Lakers, Shaq began to work on his physique and became what seemed as if almost all muscle. Shaq immediately came off rip and averaged 30 points and 14 rebounds and 3 blocks per game leading the Lakers to a 56-26 record as a first seed with the best record in the NBA and also winning the MVP blowing out all of the competition. In a climatic Western Conference game 7 the Lakers were down by 15 against a strong Portland Trailblazers squad. But in a crazy turn of events the Lakers came back and won the game by only 5 points with a final score of 89-84 to bring the Lakers to the NBA Finals and they came out on top against the Indiana pacers in game 6, since 1991 this was their first finals appearance led by Shaq who averaged 31 points, nearly 16 rebounds, and  3 blocks per game in the playoffs as Kobe was outshined by Shaq averaging 21 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Kobe slowly became more and more frustrated with how Shaq was outshining him on the court believing he was always the better player, Kobe knew he would have to show that he is the best scorer…

The Second Fight:

No more coming into camp fat and out of shape!”: Kobe Bryant mocked 340-pound Shaquille O'Neal who wanted to be the face of the Lakers - The SportsRush

Over the summer Shaq began to slack off, he came to the first summer  practice in some of the worst condition he’s even been in, this frustrating Kobe insanely and Kobe claimed that the man selling Shaq donuts has more pride than Shaq and he openly called out Shaq and said that he should be the main scorer as Shaq immediately disagreed calling Kobe selfish yet again and toward the half way point of the season Shaq was back into his original shape.

Threepeat/The End:

Smoke Signals | Kobe Bryant: One Year Later

Although this feud’s story is far from over, this story will end here, Shaq and Kobe through all the fights, all the feuding, and all the hardships played 8 great seasons together and in the 2000, 2001, and 2002 seasons Shaq and Kobe led and took home the title. Throughout their 8 seasons of playing together Shaq would average 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 blocks all together. Kobe would average 22 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. In the 2005 season Shaq would be traded to the Miami Heat where he would average 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. Kobe would go on to become the first option for the Lakers having two consecutive seasons averaging over 30 points. In the end this dynamic duo may have had a couple rocky moments, but they will still go down as the greatest guard and center duo of all time.