The feuding never ends.
Most unbiased NBA fans and historians regard Shaq and Kobe as the greatest duo in NBA history. Sure there was MJ and Pippen, who won six titles together, but Pippen was something a tad less than a superstar. There was LeBron and Wade, who made four straight Finals, but ultimately only won two together.
Kobe and Shaq were something else, something unseen before. A pairing of two superstar players at completely different positions, that were both alpha males and played on the same team in both of their primes. They won three titles in a row together, most of the time absolutely steamrolling through their competition.
But NBA historians have pondered truly how many championships they could’ve won if they never let their beef get in the way.
When asked by interviewer Patrick Bet-David who Shaq would be if he had Kobe’s work ethic, Kobe answered, “he’d be the greatest of all time.”
This comes roughly a year after Kobe and Shaq met on NBA TV and hashed out their differences. For NBA fans who didn’t just hop on the wave, we remember when the Lakers had to make a choice after the ’04 Finals, of if they were going to keep Kobe or Shaq.
Two alpha males sharing the spotlight in LA after a crushing loss to an underdog Pistons team is what finally did the team in, and the Lakers decided to stick with the younger Kobe and send the veteran Shaq to Miami. But there was more long-standing beef among the two superstars than one finals loss.
They both respected one another, even if they wouldn’t admit it at the time. But Kobe didn’t like Shaq’s Laissez-Faire attitude in the gym, at practice, and with working on his free throws. And Shaq didn’t like how Kobe had a tendency to hold onto the ball for too long.
This all came to a head when Kobe was arrested in Colorado for an alleged rape, and then he apparently threw Shaq under the bus to the cops. Their relationship was deeply fractured, and this was evident in the chemistry of the team in that Finals series against the Pistons.
Both players did eventually benefit from their split, with Shaq getting another ring in ’06, and Kobe winning with the Lakers in ’09 and ’10. “I wish he was in the gym, I would’ve had fucking 12 rings,” Kobe continued in the interview.
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It is with respect that Kobe makes these comments. He has not been short of praise for Shaq over the years, and it is because of his recognition of Shaq’s talent and force, that he was so upset that Shaq wouldn’t take practice as serious and as good of care of his body as Kobe would.
Shaq could have been more dialed in, but big men can’t work out like smaller players, it’s just not feasible. Also, Kobe doesn’t acknowledge his part in the souring of their relationship. Shaq, of course, heard about Kobe’s comments, and on Instagram gave his rebuttal.
"U wouldA had 12 if u passed the ball more especially in the finals against the Pistons."
Shaq's response to Kobe saying he would have 12 rings if Shaq was in the gym.
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) August 28, 2019
Kobe did have a brutal Finals showing and perhaps a recognition of his poor performances could have helped mend the relationship with the big man. Alas, no, and we get these small shots at each other every near now it seems like.
However, the beef can be taken with a grain of salt. Even Kobe took to Twitter after, to among other things, still call Shaq the most dominant ever.
— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) August 28, 2019
Then Shaq helped calm the tide as well, with his usual, joking-at-someone-else’s-expense self.
Both players dislike Dwight Howard, and if throwing his name in the dirt is what they need to do to stay on good terms, so be it.
Though the beef is squashed, and “12 rings” is obviously hyperbolic, Kobe’s idea that Shaq would’ve been the GOAT with a higher work ethic brings up an interesting point.
When you have an extreme level of talent and gifts, but not the work ethic to match, will you ultimately be left thinking of what might have been? Imagine Jordan or LeBron without their drives, or Kobe for that matter too.
Shaq was a beast who worked extremely hard, but if he took better care of his body, it’s not out of the question that he could have two or more rings.
We are all granted with some gifts when we are placed on this earth, even if we don’t know what they are right away. Our job is to hone in on those gifts, work at our craft, and be better every day. There are 1,080 minutes in every week. How do you use yours?