For Shaq and Kobe, Sunday's NBA All-Star Game should have been like a high school reunion.
You can almost see the two awkwardly huddled around a punch bowl, hands in their pockets and making minimal eye contact.
Kobe: So, you're looking... fit.
Shaq: Yeah, thanks. Well, I've packed on a few pounds since you last saw me, but yeah...
Kobe: How's the family?
Shaq: Good. Doing good.
(Awkward silence for about five seconds)
Shaq: How's Phil?
Kobe: He's good. You know, same old Phil.
You get the idea. But somehow their Phoenix reunion was the exact opposite in every way.
The two were seen almost canoodling on the court in pre-game warm-ups. Shaq seemed to be whispering sweet-nothings into Kobe's ear on the West All-Star bench. And Kobe proceeded to bust up laughing in a way that didn't seem all that genuine.
So nobody is confused by this charade? No question about the duo’s rockier than rocky past?
The exchange of cheap shots via the media. The childish "my team, not yours" battle. The fact their coach wrote a not-so-flattering tell-all about the events.
All swept under the rug? Just like that? What changed?
I suppose Shaq has something to gain by making nice. The Phoenix Suns are on the brink of being disassembled. Some have speculated that Shaq painting Kobe and Phil in a positive light is his way of positioning himself for a potential return to the Lakers. The future holds the key to that answer.
But what's Kobe's angle? Let's see: His personality has gone through a bit of a makeover since Shaq departed. He's certainly more likeable to some, but others still find him to be full of, well, you know. Oh, and everyone is pretty darn sure he wants to win a championship without Shaq.
So, it seems Shaq wants to repair their marriage, while Kobe is likely citing "irreconcilable differences." Sure, Kobe seemed to be playing along when the cameras were on, but, come on, are we that gullible?
Like I said, what changed?
Naturally, the media loves Shaq and Kobe's newfound fondness for each other. L.A. Times columnist Mark Heisler wrote a piece detailing the duo's giggling post-game quotes. ESPN.com columnist J.A. Adande referred to Shaq and Kobe as "great entertainment."
The Shaq-Kobe storyline is maybe the most talked about in NBA history, and the media is eating it up.
Sunday's All-Star game started with Shaq-Kobe chatter and ended with the two being named co-MVPs. Anyone find that a little, um, ironic? Sorry, not even a Hollywood screenwriter could make that ending believable.
According to Adande, Shaq won the media voting 5-4. Kobe received two points for winning the fan vote and Shaq received one for finishing second.
But strong cases could have been made for hometown star (for now) Amar'e Stoudemire and point guard Chris Paul. Stoudemire had 19 points and 6 rebounds, and Paul approached triple-double territory with 14 points, 14 assists, and 7 rebounds.
Don't get me wrong, Kobe was deserving, but Shaq seemed to be thrust into sharing MVP honors with him.
Even more far-fetched was Shaq's claim that the feud was a "marketing" ploy. O'Neal claimed that he and Kobe would have won three or four more championships if they had stayed together. So the logical choice was marketing over championships? Ridiculous and laughable.
Looking into the crystal ball, if Shaq and Kobe can reunite in purple and gold and make it work, then L.A. fans have to be all for it. That, however, is a big “if,” and probably too far down the road to get excited about. Shaq hinted at Sunday's game possibly being his last in All-Star attire, and one has to wonder about his longevity in NBA attire.
Assuming Shaq is prepping for a return to L.A., fans have to be absolutely certain that all fences are mended with Kobe. Nobody wants to see a repeat of the circus that left a dark cloud over the city. The co-MVP All-Stars must prove their dedication to winning as a team, without the elementary attitudes getting in the way.
Sunday's All-Star Game bromance was no indication that Shaq and Kobe are ready to let the past be the past.