It took over a decade, but at last, there’s closure between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
The two former teammates had a lengthy chat on the big fella’s podcast, and O’Neal made it clear that there’s no more animosity between the two future Hall of Famers.
Shaq and Kobe played together in Hollywood for eight memorable seasons, and walked away with three NBA championships.
Per the LA Times:
O’Neal, 43, began the podcast by saying it was “time to clear the air” about their relationship. […] “I just want people to know that I don’t hate you, I know you don’t hate me. I call it today a ‘work beef,’ is what we had,” said O’Neal, who retired after the 2010-11 season. “I was young, you was young. But then as I look at it, we won three [championships] out of four so I don’t really think a lot was done wrong. So I just wanted to clear the air and let everybody know that, no, I don’t hate you. We had a lot of disagreements, we had a lot of arguments. But I think it fueled us both.”
Bryant, 37, recalled the time when he and O’Neal almost came to blows in 1999. Bryant was 21 at the time, but he wasn’t going to back down to the 7-foot-1, 330-pound O’Neal. […] “In ’99, I think Shaq realized that this kid is really competitive and he’s a little crazy,” said Bryant, who is heading into what could be his final NBA season. “And I realized that I probably had a couple of screws loose because I nearly got into a fistfight and I actually was willing to get into a fight with this man. I went home and I was like, ‘Dude, I’ve either got to be the dumbest or the most courageous kid on the face of the Earth.'”
O’Neal viewed it then as an affront to his authority as the team leader, but these days he sees it differently. […] “That just showed me, ‘You know what, this kid ain’t going to back down to nobody,'” O’Neal said. “Kobe seen me punk everybody in the league. So when this kid would stand up every day [to me], I’m like, ‘This kid ain’t going to back down.’ I knew then, if I’m down by one and I kick it out to someone, he’s going to shoot it and he’s going to make it.”