The two put together three championships in four NBA Finals appearances from 2000-2004 and the league has yet to see a duo do nearly the same damage since.
However, despite all of their successes, they were also notorious for hating each other during this time. In fact, some of their angst towards one another still leaks all the way out to the present day. Even though it’s been 15 years since the two were teammates, they still like to take not-so-subtle jabs at one another through the media — even if it’s more in a playful sense now.
One of those jabs came indirectly from Raja Bell towards Bryant, telling a story about a former Phoenix Suns player that he and O’Neal would have to avoid passing the basketball to if he got particularly selfish on the court, according to Sam Quinn of CBS Sports:
“Shaq told me a story. We had a kid named Gordon Giricek on our Suns team, he had gotten there, and Gordon would go in the game, and Gordon was about his buckets. So Gordon would get in, and no matter what we were doing, no matter what the flow or the chemistry was, Gordon would be just, you know, shooting the ball. Gordon was my guy, I played with him in Utah.”
Bell loved the idea of a signal to avoid getting Gordon Giricek player the basketball and asked O’Neal where he got it. O’Neal responded by saying how he got the idea from another one of his former teammates in Bryant, who he used to do the exact same thing to during the early years:
“But Shaq started saying ‘hey guys, this is the symbol’ (twitches thumbs downward) ‘when I give you this, Gordon doesn’t get the ball anymore.’ And I’m like ‘dude what is the background on that, where’d you come up with that?’ And he was like ‘when Kobe was young, he would be going in and just trying to get ’em, so the rest of us had a universal kind of code that if we looked at each other and went (gives signal) then that meant Kobe didn’t get the ball anymore.'”
O’Neal was always known for his sense of humor both on and off the court, so it comes as no surprise that he would do something like this — even with an up-and-coming All-Star player like Bryant.
Luckily, Bryant seemingly didn’t catch on at the time. If Bryant had, the feud might’ve ended in an even uglier way than it already did and it likely would have taken a lot longer for the two to make up and find peace.