Earlier this week, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal surprised everyone by teaming up for a podcast to clear the air on their bitter feud from over a decade ago. Bryant and O'Neal put their differences aside and spoke at length about what happened during their time together as the dynamic duo for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Following four appearances in the NBA Finals and three NBA titles won, the Lakers made a move that immediately started the rebuilding process around the new face of the franchise in Bryant. Dr. Jerry Buss made the decision to trade O'Neal to the Miami Heat after the Lakers owner chose to go with the younger Bryant over the veteran center in terms of the team's future plans.
Leading up to the blockbuster trade to send Shaq to Miami, Bryant and O'Neal weren't seeing eye-to-eye and both felt as if they could no longer coexist. Things began to get really ugly between the two in Los Angeles with both players taking shots at one another through the media.
Ultimately, Buss chose to go with the younger option and as a result the team eventually won two more titles with Kobe at the helm. Despite another set of back-to-back championships for the Lakers, the debate continues about how many titles the team could've won if Shaq and Kobe were able to give their egos a rest.
In an appearance on The Rich Eisen Show, O'Neal made the bold statement that he and Bryant would've gone on to win a total of six or more titles matching or surpassing Michael Jordan's total, transcription via Pro Basketball Talk:
“I think we could have probably tied Mike, or surpassed Mike. I guess six. Everybody talks about Bill Russell’s 11; no player will ever come along that will win 11 championships unless they reduce the league to 10 teams. So you shouldn’t even bring Bill up. So now Mike, when you talk about the pinnacles of championships you always gotta go with Mike. So Mike has six. I think we could have either tied that or got that.
“But if “if” was a fifth we’d all be drunk, Susan.”
With Shaq long since retired and Kobe on the verge of retirement, it is easy to make statements about hypothetical scenarios like these. There's no doubt that many Lakers fans believe that if Kobe-Shaq era of the Lakers was extended the franchise may have more titles to their credit, but there's simply no way to know.
Ultimately, Shaq and Kobe went on to combine for three more titles won. O'Neal won a fourth title after leaving the Lakers with the Heat while Kobe led Los Angeles to two more titles alongside Pau Gasol.
NBA ON TNTKobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal sat down in a fascinating one-on-one interview
The beef between O'Neal and Bryant is infamous from their time together with the Lakers and even more so when O'Neal left to join the Miami Heat in 2004.
The dynamic duo won the three-peat in 2000, 2001 and 2002 but a shock loss in the Western Conference semi-finals the following season spelt the end of their time together in Los Angeles.
The feud continued between them whenever they would meet on the court, with the media lapping up anything either of them said about each other.
But since both players have no retired, they have admitted to putting their past behind them and really appreciating what they achieved together.
Lakers fans always wonder what could have happened if O'Neal would have stayed alongside Bryant and how many titles they would have won.
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And O'Neal has admitted it was during the 2009 All-Star game when he finally let their feud go and realise he may have acted rashly when the two were together in Los Angeles.
In a conversation aired on NBA on TNT last night, the pair sat down face-to-face to discuss their carers together, and O'Neal shared one special memory he had.
"Do you remember what you did during that game that made me realise I was *** to you all those years?" O'Neal said.
"So we got the co-MVP. It's me, Shareef and you sat on that stage and what did you tell me to do? You told me to take the trophy home.
GETTYShaquille O'Neal remembers Kobe Bryant letting him take home the 2009 All-Star MVP award to his son
"I took it home and I gave it to Shareef.
"And I realise then I was like 'I think I may have messed something up' because a lot of the times our beef was going on, you know me I'm a master marketer.
"About 60 per cent of the time I was just saying it to keep it going, but when you did that when you didn't have to do that because usually they take it and they mail it, but you was like 'Shaq, you take it'.
"I just said to myself 'luckily I won three out of four with this guy, but I was an a****** to this guy' so I owe you an apology.
"I'm going to give you an apology but we're not going to be doing none of that crying like Magic and Isiah."