In Lakers’ history, one of the biggest what-ifs centers around Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Two superstars who dominated their competition for the better part of five years in the early 2000s. In that time frame, they won three titles, went to four NBA Finals, and cemented themselves as one of the greatest duos to ever play the game.
However, most thought egos got the better of the duo, which eventually left the Lakers with the situation of picking Bryant or Shaq. As we know, the Lakers picked Bryant and sent Shaq to Miami. To this day, Bryant is often charged with running Shaq (and Phil Jackson) out of town.
However, in a candid moment on Inside the NBA on TNT, the question arose about Shaq and Kobe’s relationship. Having never been directly asked before, Shaq gave honest answers and enlightened fans on just how things went down in LA. Here’s a transcription…
Charles Barkley – I got a question for you [to Shaq]. Do you wish you and Kobe woulda handled ya’ll relationship differently and if so how many championships do you think ya’ll woulda won.
Shaq - We didn’t have a bad relationship cause we won 3 out of 4 championships. That’s not a bad relationship at all. Second of all, it was a money situation. I was getting older, they wanted me to take less money, I wasn’t gonna do that. So they traded me to Miami. The way it turned out was the way it was supposed to turn out.
Shaq – A lot of that was created by me. Cause I know he was a tough, ornery kid. I used to push his buttons. He used to push my buttons. And it made us perform at high levels. He was trying to out-do me, I was trying to out-do him and it was hell for the opponents.
Shaq - I was making 30 [million dollars] at the time but they wanted me to go to 20 [million dollars] and I wasn’t gonna do that…A lot of people ask me that Chuck. I’m gonna go with 5 or 6 [total titles].
This is the first time either Shaq or Kobe have been this candid about how their relationship played out. Many, many years removed from the situation, it’s fascinating (and slightly depressing) to hear Shaq talk about Kobe and him together and the damage they could have caused. Many will criticize Shaq for demanding too much money and ruining the Lakers chances at more titles, but you can’t blame a man for seeking the money he feels he deserves.
The full interview can be watched below.