It’s been a long time coming with beliefs it would never happen, but Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant have squashed their years long feud.
The LA Times reports the resolution to the beef, which started 11 years after O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat after playing for the Los Angeles Lakers, occurred during Bryant’s appearance on O’Neal’s “The Big Podcast with Shaq.”
In the episode, which is now available, the former Lakers teammates reminisced on their infamous feud as O’Neal kicked things off on the podcast, saying it was “time to clear the air” about his relationship with Bryant.
“I just want people to know that I don’t hate you, I know you don’t hate me. I call it today a ‘work beef,’ is what we had,” said the 43-year-old former NBA all-star, who retired after the 2010-11 season. “I was young, you was young. But then as I look at it, we won three [championships] out of four so I don’t really think a lot was done wrong. So I just wanted to clear the air and let everybody know that, no, I don’t hate you. We had a lot of disagreements, we had a lot of arguments. But I think it fueled us both.”
For Bryant, the beef was filled with more than enough moments and things said that created a rocky road for the formidable duo when they played for the Lakers from 1999-2004. During their time together, Bryant and O’Neal emerged as one of the most powerful duos in NBA history as they brought three championships to the team in 2000, ’01 and ’02, despite constant conflict with each other.
“When you say it at the time, you actually mean it,” Bryant said. “And then when you get older, you have more perspective, you’re like, ‘Holy . . . I was an idiot as a kid.’ To me, the most important thing is you keep your mouth shut. There’s no need to go to the press. You keep it internal.
“We have our arguments and our disagreements. But I think . . . having our debates within the press was something I wished would been avoided.”
Among the incidents the pair reminisced over was the time when a then 21-year-old nearly came to blows with the 7-foot-1, 330-pound O’Neal.
“In ’99, I think Shaq realized that this kid is really competitive and he’s a little crazy,” recalled Bryant, who is heading into what could be his final season in the NBA. “And I realized that I probably had a couple of screws loose because I nearly got into a fistfight and I actually was willing to get into a fight with this man. I went home and I was like, ‘Dude, I’ve either got to be the dumbest or the most courageous kid on the face of the Earth.’”
Although he saw it as a challenge to his authority as team leaders of the Lakers, O’Neal looks back on the situation with a different view.
“That just showed me, ‘You know what, this kid ain’t going to back down to nobody. Kobe seen me punk everybody in the league. So when this kid would stand up every day [to me], I’m like, ‘This kid ain’t going to back down.’ I knew then, if I’m down by one and I kick it out to someone, he’s going to shoot it and he’s going to make it,” O’Neal said as he and Bryant laughed over what went down.
“He was either going to beat the . . . out of me or I was going to get it done,” Bryant said. “I was comfortable with either one.”
Despite the beef that existed, O’Neal revealed that Lakers coach Phil Jackson “never” played favorites between his two star players.
“He was really fair,” O’Neal said. “He only got fed up one time and he came in and said, ‘Both of ya’ll need to cut it out.’ And that’s the only thing he said.”
Listen to the full podcast below: