Shaquille O'Neal vs. Kobe Bryant: Who Has Done More with Less?

Paul SalmanSenior Analyst IMay 22, 2009

Why is it that Kobe is treated like a player who has no rings, just because he never won one without Shaq?

Before getting into it, I hope this article turns out null and void in a couple weeks when/if the Lakers win the Finals.
However, right now, after a Game Two loss, people are discussing why Kobe can't win alone and reminding you that he never won without Shaq on his team.
Lets take a closer look at Shaq's career.
He has been to the Finals with three teams, and each time he has had an All-Star guard. In his time on the Magic with Penny Hardaway, Shaq was too young.  He had to match up against two Hall-of-Fame centers (Ewing and Hakeem) during their prime years and was unable to win. His team took advantage of a year without Michael Jordan and won the East.
Once Shaq reached his stride and became what we know him as, he was playing on a team with a top-tier player in Kobe Bryant, and was matching up against Ewing and Hakeem well past their prime, Duncan—who was too young at that point—and that is pretty much it.
In those years, LA had great match ups vs. the Kings but Shaq was being guarded by Chris Webber! These were years when there were no real big men in the league, so Shaq was able to dominate, along with having the privilege of playing with Kobe Bryant.
In the mid 2000s the West began to get much more competitive then the East, and there were big men who were able to actually compete. Tim Duncan became a real foe to Shaq, Yao Ming came into the league, and while Dirk may not have been a big man who can match up with Shaq the Mavs became a competitor with his addition.
Kevin Garnett even had his T-Wolves in the Conference Finals in 2003-2004. Conveniently, this is when the Kobe vs. Shaq feud peaked and Shaq was moved to the weaker Eastern Conference and the Miami Heat.
Moving to the East allowed a less-dominant Shaq to be in a conference which was very weak at the time and had no big men even close to Shaq's size or skill set. He was again able to dominate—and was able to team up with a new top-tier guard in Dwayne Wade.
Shaq got his fourth ring, and the media was quick to point out that he won without Kobe, while Kobe and his young, depleted team team were unable to get out of the first round. The fact that D. Wade was the 2006 Finals MVP was overshadowed by the fact that Shaq left LA and won again. Almost as if he had done it alone.
Kobe has never won with out Shaq, that is true, but Shaq has never won without a top tier player and while having to match up against any top tier opponents at his position.
Kobe is always matched up against the opponent's best player—Shaq is not.
In his four championships, he faced an over-the-hill Rik Smits, Dikembe Mutombo, Jason Collins and DeSagana Diop.
In his two losses in the the NBA Finals, Shaq went against Hakeem Olajuwon and a defensively-dominant but smaller Ben Wallace.
In the year the Lakers were going for a four-peat in 2003, they were knocked out by Tim Duncan and the Spurs.
Do you see a correlation here between the caliber of Shaq's opponent and his win-loss record?
To give Shaq a pass but treat Kobe, a man with three rings, as if he has none is unfair.
If Kobe is able to win this year or next, in a conference and league that is much more competitive then in 2000-2004, before Bynum becomes an All Star, with Lamar Odom—who is known to not be a finisher—without a legit point guard, and with a bunch of soft European players, he deserves more credit then Shaq for his winnings.