Are we looking at the next riveting saga in the drama known as Kobe and Shaq's relationship?
It depends how you look at his latest quotes regarding his Lakers jersey being retired.
O’Neal, who was in Los Angeles this weekend to host the Cartoon Network Hall of Game Awards, says he continues to watch the Lakers regularly after retiring in June and enjoyed watching Kobe Bryant pass him for fifth on the NBA all-time scoring list earlier this season. He did say, however, he should have been much higher on the list but injuries and an inability to hit his free throws held him back.
“Kobe’s one of those athletes like Michael Jordan and Karl Malone that doesn’t miss a lot of games because of injury,” O’Neal said. “I missed 250 games and I averaged 24 points per game so that’s 6,000 points and I missed 5,000 free throws so I could have easily been at No. 2. Kobe’s never really hurt and he shoots a lot so good for him.”
Do these friends-turned-enemies ever let up on each other? I swear, this has the makings of a backhanded compliment.
Sure, Shaq is acknowledging that Kobe is great, but he's almost putting an asterisk on it by saying that he would have been better if things turned out differently for him—mainly health and free throws.
Let's take a look at this quote through our personal rivalry decoder to see what Shaq really is saying:
“Kobe’s one of those athletes like Michael Jordan and Karl Malone that doesn’t miss a lot of games because of injury,” O’Neal said.
Translation: Kobe, you're one of the best ever.
“I missed 250 games and I averaged 24 points per game so that’s 6,000 points and I missed 5,000 free throws so I could have easily been at No. 2."
And by best ever, I mean that you still wouldn't be better than me if two major factors in my career were different. If I was healthy and could actually shoot free throws, I would totally destroy you.
"Kobe’s never really hurt and he shoots a lot, so good for him.”
Oh, and by the way...
You're a ball hog.
Perhaps I'm looking a bit too deeply into his comments, but if we've learned anything about these two rivals, it's that they will go to any lengths to get back at each other. It's all smiles on the outside and they normally say the right things—specifically Kobe—but when all is said and done, I'll never be convinced that The Diesel and the Black Mamba don't hate each other.
It's hard not to look at these quotes and see something more. After all, this is what these two are known for: taking shots at each other.
We would be naive to look at this and not see a dig. O'Neal is totally taking a veiled shot at Bryant. He's undermining his accomplishments by playing the "shoulda, coulda, woulda" card.
It's completely childish, unprofessional and 100 percent false, but then again, I don't think Shaq cares about that. The ball's in Kobe's court now and I wouldn't be surprised to see a quick jab or kick under the table coming soon.
These two are the quintessential passive-aggressive pair.