During a 19-year, Hall of Fame career, it can be argued that no other player in NBA history absorbed more physical punishment than Shaquille O’Neal.
The Diesel argues that since he was getting beat up so much during the actual games, he coasted when it came to practice.
This, of course, was one of many reasons that drove a wedge between Shaq and former teammate Kobe Bryant.
Per Yahoo! Sports (via “In Depth with Graham Bensinger”):
Shaq’s time with the Lakers featured a well-publicized feud with his co-star, Kobe Bryant. But Shaq said he was really just trying to motivate Kobe. […] O’Neal: “I had to figure out a way to get him to perform at a high level. And I realized that we were the same people – we don’t like criticism and we turn it into motivation… [Kobe] was a guy that I know if I talk smack, he’s going to come out and try and score 50. I think it worked perfectly.”
And later, Shaq boldly claims the duo was the best the NBA has ever seen. […] O’Neal: “I just felt that sometimes he didn’t do it the right way. I know he felt that sometimes he felt that I didn’t work hard or whatever, whatever, but again it all worked. Three of four. we will be the most talked about, the most enigmatic, the most controversial duo, the best 1-2 punch in the history of the game.”
Bensinger: “[Phil Jackson] said something about you that I’m sure wasn’t intended to be critical but there’s no other way to really look at it. That if you worked harder he thought you could have won 10 consecutive MVP’s. When you heard that, what was your reaction?” […] O’Neal: “In the words of Allen Iverson, ‘We talking about practice?’ Did I work hard in practice? No. Never. And let me tell you why. The guy that I’m playing against, they’re under me. So to try and show that they’re worthy of being an NBA player, they would touch me up. So it was my philosophy… I’m not gonna get touched up twice. I’m not gonna get beat up at practice and in the game. So I will chill in practice and I’ll give you all in the game.”