Back in 2005, the feud between former Los Angeles Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal was at its peak. Bryant had leveraged the threat of leaving in free agency to get O’Neal traded the Miami Heat, and there was no love lost between the formerly dominant duo.
Perhaps that’s why Bryant said in a recent interview that he would’ve chosen LeBron James (instead of O’Neal) for his All-Star team in 2005 if he was a captain like in the system the league uses now rather than the old “East vs. West” format.
Or maybe Bryant just actually feels like James was better by that point. Either way, O’Neal and Bryant have publicly made up multiple times since those days.
Therefore, it’s why it’s not that surprising that O’Neal wasn’t too upset while responding to Bryant’s potential slight during a Q&A with Alysha Tsuji of USA Today:
“If you look at the rules, whoever got the most votes got to be the pick, that would’ve been me. But, I’m not offended by that. He (Kobe) gotta pick who he gotta pick. Being that we played together all the time, he wants to play with somebody different. I understand that.”
During the 2004-05 season, James was averaging 27.2 points, 7.2 assists and 7.4 rebounds, while O’Neal was producing 22.9, 2.7 and 10.4 in those categories, respectively. James also had 14.3 win shares that season compared to 11 for O’Neal.
And not only was James having arguably the better statistical season, as a boundless, second-year athlete at that point, James was a much better fit for the open-court nature of the All-Star Game that O’Neal was. So, Bryant’s take might have been justified on multiple levels.
O’Neal is also right that Bryant may have just wanted a change of teammates in the All-Star Game, just like he did on his real team at that point. Especially given that the animosity between the two was at its height.