Shaq on James Harden, Chris Paul: 'Me and Kobe Had Tension All the Time'

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistJune 18, 2019

EAST RUTHERFORD, UNITED STATES:  Kobe Bryant (L) and Shaquille O'Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers talk during game four of the NBA Finals against the New Jersey Nets at the Continental Airlines Arena 12 June 2002 in East Rutherford, NJ. The Lakers, led by O'Neal, swept to their third straight National Basketball Association championship with a 113-107 victory over the Nets. AFP PHOTO/Matt CAMPBELL (Photo credit should read MATT CAMPBELL/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Los Angeles Lakers teammates Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were involved in one of the most notable feuds in NBA history, so after a high-ranking Houston Rockets source told ESPN.com's Tim MacMahon that "there's too much damn turmoil" going on within the organization, Shaq said a lack of respect is the biggest issue.

"Me and Kobe had tension all the time, but we respected each other," O'Neal said on First Take on Tuesday. "We respected each other so much that after we won our first championship, he was the first guy to jump in my arms. So you can have tension."

O'Neal and Bryant spent eight seasons (1996-97 to 2003-04) as teammates in L.A., leading the Purple and Gold to four NBA Finals appearances and three championships. The 1999-2000 to 2001-02 Lakers are the last team to three-peat.

However, the pair's tense relationship led to the demise of the dynasty, as O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat following the 2003-04 campaign.


.@kobebryant and @SHAQ talk details about their eventual break up from the @Lakers. #PlayersOnly https://t.co/J8Wqygzx0V

Years passed before the two were (at least publicly) on good terms. O'Neal apologized to Bryant for the feud in a TNT sit-down in 2018.

But as O'Neal alluded to Tuesday, there was at least a mutual respect between the two. Bryant revealed during their sit-down that a physical altercation early in their relationship helped them get on the same page:


"I think I can remember the first time we had our first fight..." - @kobebryant #PlayersOnly https://t.co/IOS6FTjREt

Meanwhile, the drama in Houston stems from "differences in preferred playing styles and personality" between Harden and Paul, according to MacMahon. One source suggested Paul "wants to coach" Harden and gets frustrated by the 2017-18 MVP's lack of attention to details.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, though, said the tension is similar to what exists throughout the league.

"What you have are two highly competitive guys who were very disappointed that we didn't beat Golden State," Morey told MacMahon. "You've got two high-level competitors who want to figure out how to win at a higher level, as well. Naturally, people who want that so bad, something that's so tough, it's going to create sometimes things that need to be discussed. But it's all, to me, in bounds of any superstars."

Harden and Paul have been teammates for two seasons and have made the Rockets one of the top contenders in the Association. In fact, just last year Houston was one win from the Finals when a Paul injury derailed its season.

Harden and Paul will likely be teammates for at least two more seasons.

"I don't mind them having tension," O'Neal added. "Just has to be respectful tension. Cuz holding hands and having a great show, and holding hands and having a great championship, I've never heard that story. All the stories I heard about the past greats is they had tension, they had beef. But when you step inside the lines, you've gotta respect each other."