On Friday, Shaquille O’Neal officially announced his retirement at a press conference from his home gym. When I first heard the announcement, I had two initial thoughts:
1) If Shaq has a home gym, why on earth did he show up to training camp overweight every season?
2) Will Shaq’s retirement finally end the Shaq-Kobe feud?
The Shaq-Kobe feud has lingered for years. It’s tough to put a finger on when it all started, but it has definitely lasted at least a decade.
So much has gone on during the feud that Wikipedia dedicated an entire page to the topic and sources 119 articles throughout—119 articles!
Despite the Hollywood drama between Shaq and Kobe, the two played together well enough to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to three consecutive championships from 2000-2002.
After missing the Finals in 2003 and being upset by the Pistons in the 2004 Finals, it became clear that Shaq and Kobe could no longer coexist. Shaq was traded to Miami, Kobe stayed in LA and the Lakers wallowed in mediocrity for the next several years.
Looking back, I can’t help but wonder how many titles the Lakers could have won had the two superstars stayed together.
Would the Lakers have beaten the Pistons if Kobe and Shaq were not having alpha-dog battles? Probably. Could the Lakers have won at least one or two more titles if they didn’t let their egos get in the way? I think so.
At the time of the incident, most blamed Kobe for the breakup. Years later, after watching Shaq leave Miami and Phoenix on bad terms, many have pointed the finger at him. But who’s really to blame?
While we would love to put the blame on just one of them, there’s plenty to share between the two superstars. Both players were arrogant and wanted to win on their own terms. Both players acted in their own self-interest, rather than putting their team first.
While journalists and commentators around the country reveled in the Shaq-Kobe feud, nothing good ever came of it for the Lakers. The Los Angeles Times probably sold a lot of newspapers, but the fractured relationship never allowed the team to truly realize its full potential.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the Lakers three-peat. Chills still run through my body when I see clips of the Kobe-to-Shaq alley-oop that capped the Game 7 comeback over the Trail Blazers. When Shaq and Kobe were on the same page, it was simply beautiful—no one could stop them.
While I will always treasure those precious memories, I do feel slightly shortchanged knowing that so much was left on the table. The Shaq-Kobe years in Los Angeles were great, but they could have been so much greater.
The poet John Greenleaf Whittier perfectly sums up my feelings on the subject: “Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"
Let us all hope the Big Fella’s retirement ends the Shaq and Kobe feud once and for all. It’s gone on long enough.