The blood feud between Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant has long been buried, but the two have managed to avoid a one-on-one sit-down in which they publicly discussed what went wrong in Los Angeles—until now.
Bryant appeared on O'Neal's podcast, The Big Podcast With Shaq, which will air Monday on PodCastOne.com, and the pair addressed their past head-on.
In an excerpt of the interview provided to Bleacher Report, O'Neal and Bryant both admitted to having regrets about the way their pairing with the Lakers ended.
"A lot of stuff was said out of the heat of the moment," O'Neal said, via Serena Winters of Lakers Nation. "I guarantee I don’t remember a lot of stuff that they said, because I changed my thought process of, you know what, we won three out of four, what the hell are you all talking about, this is not really even a story."
Bryant and O'Neal were teammates from 1996-2004 in Los Angeles, emerging as the NBA's premier duo in that time. They won three consecutive championships from 2000-02 and reached a fourth NBA Finals during their final campaign together in 2003-04. Their rise to prominence was fraught with internal turmoil, however, as O'Neal and Bryant fought one another tooth and nail late in the former's tenure.
Bryant commented on the public nature of their feud:
Here’s the thing though, when you say it at the time you actually mean it and then when you get older you have more perspective and you’re like holy s—t, I was an idiot when I was a kid. To me, the most important thing was really just keep your mouth shut. You don’t need to go to the press with stuff. You keep it internal and we have our arguments and our disagreements, but I think having our debates within the press was something I wish would’ve been avoided, but it did kind of create this whirlwind around us as a team with myself and Shaq and the press and the media that just put so much pressure on us as an organization.
O'Neal was eventually traded to the Miami Heat during the 2004 offseason, which served as a prelude to Bryant's signing a seven-year extension to stay with the Lakers. The Heat would win a championship in O'Neal's second season in Miami, while Bryant would go on to add two more rings after the Lakers acquired Pau Gasol later in the decade.
"Philosophically, could you imagine how many years would Michael Jordan and Wilt Chamberlain be playing together with Wilt in his prime and Michael wanting to come up?" Bryant said in audio provided to Bleacher Report. "How long is that going to last before Michael says 'You know what, it's time for me.'"
Still, it appears both players—much like a majority of Lakers fans—find themselves wondering what would have happened had they swallowed their egos and stuck together in Los Angeles. The odds are that both guys would have more rings than they do now.
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