Despite winning three NBA titles together with the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal clashed several times during their time as teammates. Following the 2003-04 season, the Lakers traded away O’Neal which put an end to the duo.
Their feud is one of the most storied in all of sports. It seemingly was one of the reasons the Lakers failed to win a championship with a roster compiled of four future Hall of Famers as Karl Malone and Gary Payton joined the team. Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher compiled an oral history on the Lakers’ season in which Lakers vice president of public relations John Black recounted an early incident between Bryant and O’Neal:
Mostly it was Shaq and Kobe didn’t like each other, but it didn’t affect them on the court. They would say something about the other, on or off the record, but it didn’t become confrontational more than two or three times over the eight years. When Kobe gave the statement to Jim Gray where he went off calling Shaq fat and lazy, that was one of the times. There was one really bad one, early on. Brian Shaw had to pull them apart. Shaq threatened to murder Kobe.
Even though the Lakers still reached the Finals, the team couldn’t overcome the numerous off-court issues and develop the proper chemistry needed to win a championship. The Detroit Pistons disposed the Lakers in five games.
O’Neal would go on and win another NBA title as a member of the Miami Heat in 2006 while it would take Bryant and the Lakers another four seasons to make the Finals again and five to win another championship.