Shaquille O’Neal is done with people perpetuating the narrative that he and Kobe Bryant were enthralled in a years-long feud during their time in Los Angeles together. The two Olympic-level athletes played for the Lakers from 1996 to 2004, winning three NBA championships back-to-back between 2000 and 2002.
The tension between the men was well documented, from remarks they made about each other in interviews to their interactions on the court that were, at times, undercut by perceived disdain for each other. O’Neal, however, has a different perspective on the conflict that sports fans witnessed.
“What y’all have to understand [there] was never a feud,” he said in the first episode of his and film producer Adam Lefkoe’s new audio show, “The Big Podcast With Shaq.” He further explained, “You gotta understand there’s one boss and one boss only, and a lot of time, you know, you got people that work for you, and it don’t go like that. However, the respect has to always be there.”
“We don’t see eye to eye, but it ain’t a feud. It just looks like a feud. ‘Cause Imma keep it real, when I’m gettin’ doubled, he the first dude I’m looking for. When he gettin’ doubled, I’m the first dude he looking for,” continued O’Neal. “Forget all that. I hate that the outsiders say you have to be this [or] you have to be that. No, you don’t; you don’t need all that.”
O’Neal was traded from the franchise in 2004 and went on to play for the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers before retiring in 2011. Kobe continued playing into this 20th season with the Lakers before ending an era of storied game play and achievements in 2016.
The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductees (O’Neal in 2017 and Kobe posthumously in 2021) signaled that they had buried the hatchet when they appeared in the 2018 “Players Only: Shaq & Kobe” one-on-one interview for TNT.
When the “Black Mamba” and eight others, including his daughter Gianna Bryant, perished in a tragic helicopter accident in January 2020, O’Neal was among the list of individuals who paid tribute to the late basketball great at the public memorial held at the Staples Center.