Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant Discuss Activism in NBA, Personal Influences

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 16, 2018

Shaquille O'Neal, left, and Kobe Bryant chat at the unveiling of his statue in front of Staples Center, Friday, March 24, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant sat down for a conversation that will be aired during All-Star Weekend. During the excerpt shared on Monday’s Inside the NBABryant spoke about conversations he had with Bill Russell (h/t Ryne Nelson of Slam Online): 

"I talked to Bill Russell a lot about what he had to deal with in signing with the [Boston] Celtics and being an African-American in that city at that moment in time in that kind of organization. He used to tell me some unbelievable stories about things he used to hear in the stands, things that he would experience at home, threats, things of that sort. The pay. Things they had to stand up and fight for as a culture. He was a big influence for me, educating me on where things were and where we progressed to but still understanding there's much work to be done. It's important for athletes to use that platform in whatever way they feel comfortable. Some people do it publicly, other people do it privately. But the important thing is to move the needle."

O'Neal responded:

"My favorite activist is Jim Brown. Similar to Bill Russell, he has great stories. My favorite photo is Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] and Muhammad Ali, all sitting in suits voicing their opinions about what's right and what's wrong. I like the way they did it, and again, athletes can use their voice any way they want. But my advice to them is if you're going to be about it, always be about it. Because if you look at Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell, they started at day one and continued until their last breath. But for me, it was Jim Brown. Love him, and for me, growing up and knowing who Jim Brown was, for the first time seeing him he was like, 'Hey Shaq, I love your game,' and I went 'Wow. The great Jim Brown said he loves my game.' So he's my favorite guy."

O'Neal also talked about his beef with Bryant and about how seeing Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas' tearful conversation on NBA TV, as the two discussed their previously frayed relationship, inspired him to set up a sit down with his former teammate: 

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“People ask me all the time, 'If I could change anything, would I change it?’ My answer will always be 'No.'" -@SHAQ discusses his sit-down with @kobebryant, airing during #NBAAllStar weekend on TNT. https://t.co/RTDzBpWjYg

Bryant and O'Neal spent eight seasons together in Los Angeles (1996-04), winning three titles and reaching four NBA Finals. The pair famously feuded, though as O'Neal noted in the excerpt above, that feud was largely waged through the media.

Now both retired, it appears O'Neal and Bryant are keen to once again clear the air. 


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