"Congrats to Kobe for being the greatest laker ever thanks for making us the greatest laker one two punch ever and congrats on passin me up 2." -- Shaquille O'Neal
Nothing gets LA sports honks more chappy than ranking all time Laker greats, so it should be no surprise that one “innocent” tweet from The Big Aristotle spawned a raging debate on talk radio.
For those unfamiliar with the landscape of LA sports, let me explain: The Lakers are No. 1, USC football is No. 2 and everyone else is basically an afterthought. So it's no surprise when news broke that Clippers guard and locker-room leader Chauncey Billups went down with a season-ending Achilles tear, the airwaves were flooded with LAKERS talk, not Clippers talk. Billups' injury—which could cripple the Clippers championship hopes—was merely a footnote (which is why the idea that the Clippers have taken over LA is so, well, cute).
The biggest news in town centered around the purple and gold.
With Kobe surpassing Shaq as the 5th leading scorer in NBA history, Shaq boldly proclaimed that Kobe was the "greatest Laker ever". Of course, that would insinuate Kobe is better than one Earvin "Magic" Johnson. It's an interesting debate: Both won five titles. Both played with the dominant center of their era. One is the greatest passer of all time. One might retire as the greatest scorer of all time. All anyone in LA wanted was to take a stance on the Kobe vs. Magic argument.
People were so engrossed with the debate that a funny thing happened: Non-Lakers fans started calling in specifically to tear Kobe down. It stopped being about “Why Magic was better than Kobe," and it turned into “Why Kobe is worse than Magic."
Was Shaq's "congrats" genuine?
And it all started with a comment by whom?
Oh that’s right. Shaquille O’Neal.
Los Angeles is, and will always be, a Magic Johnson town. In the minds of a vast majority of Lakers fans, No. 32 is the greatest, and there is nothing to argue about.
Sure it’s about basketball—Magic’s resume is better than Kobe’s, if only slightly—but it’s more than that. Magic is a mythical figure in this town, and his place on the Los Angeles Mount Rushmore of Sports is etched in stone.
Shaq knows this. Kobe knows this. Everyone in LA knows this.
So why make that comment?
Simple. It was a convenient opportunity to take a run at Kobe... and we all know that given the opportunity, Shaq won’t pass that up. He can’t help himself.
The sad part is at first glance we thought Shaq and Kobe had buried the hatchet. Shaq was congratulating Kobe. Kobe was saying how it was an “honor” to pass him. Maybe all of the cross-country insults and indirect snipes had been finally been laid to rest.
For a second, Angelinos thought they might get their secret wish and see a Kobe-Shaq love fest. Trust me, nothing would make Lakers fans happier than seeing Shaq and Kobe bro down, hope on a tandem bike and take a ride around the Silverlake Reservoir.
Los Angeles wants them to like each other. In a perverse way, they need them to like each other.
But they don’t.
Monday’s comments were just the latest reminder.