Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, and Allen Iverson will forever be linked, and not just for the classic NBA Finals series in 2001 that saw O’Neal and Bryant’s Lakers bring home a second consecutive championship for the Lakers. The trio were among some of the brightest stars of their era, and each of them left a lasting impact on the game.
Iverson and O’Neal were both inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer (along with Yao Ming), and took a moment to recognize Bryant during their respective speeches. Iverson’s comments focused on the battles he and Kobe waged against each other:
“He brought everything out of me on the basketball court, and I appreciate him for that.”
As two of the greatest guards of all-time, Bryant and Iverson found themselves matched against each other on numerous occasions. Both had an intense competitive fire, and that would push them to new heights. While they wouldn’t guard each other very often due to Iverson’s quickness and Bryant’s size, their rivalry still produced some epic battles.
True to form, O’Neal took a light-hearted shot at Bryant when it was his turn at the podium:
“Last but not least, the great Kobe Bryant. Kobe Bryant: a guy that would push me and help me win three titles in a row. He’d also help me get pushed off the team and get me traded to Miami.”
As expected, Shaq drew plenty of laughs with his speech, but his comments on Kobe were accurate. The one-two punch that he and Bryant created brought three championships to Los Angeles, but ultimately their personality differences became too much to overcome and a split became inevitable.
When Bryant became a free agent with the ability to leave the franchise in 2004, the Lakers opted to trade O’Neal in order to convince the Bryant to return.
While the Shaq and Kobe duo didn’t last, the moments that their generation (which includes Iverson and Yao) produced will never be forgotten.