Found April 02, 2013 on
Fox Sports West:
LOS ANGELES Tuesday night at Staples Center the Lakers will retire the number 34 jersey worn by the great center Shaquille ONeal during his eight-year tenure with the Lakers. Fans may also get to see another retirement of sorts: a public end to the Shaq-Kobe Bryant feud.
ONeal and Bryant both came to the Lakers in 1996 Shaq as a free agent and Kobe as part of a draft day trade with Charlotte. Beginning in 2000 they won three straight titles and appeared in four NBA Finals together, but the daily soap opera that starred the two was the real point of interest among Laker insiders.
Two of the greatest players in Laker history just didnt like each other. They were able to co-exist and thrive for eight years and there were times when their relationship appeared harmonious.
They were unstoppable on the court and mortal enemies off it.
In private, Shaq would refer to Kobe using profane nicknames and feeling his younger teammate was anything but a true teammate. He always felt Kobe was selfish and only cared about the numbers he could roll out each game, while Bryant bad-mouthed ONeals supposed lack of conditioning and work ethic. Laker players would take sides mostly with Shaq and Bryant just sat back seething and getting angrier and more resentful.
Finally, in 2004, Bryant exploded publicly, calling Shaq a fat-a and told the late Dr. Jerry Buss that he wouldnt play one more minute with ONeal. Bryant was about to become a free agent, and according to several sources had told Clippers owner Donald Sterling to have a jersey made for him, because he was leaving the Lakers to move across the hallway at Staples Center. Buss decided to put his future in the hands of the younger, more athletic Bryant, and immediately traded ONeal to Miami for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler and Brian Grant.
One day later, a deliriously happy Bryant signed a seven-year 136.4-million deal to stay with the Lakers. But it was ONeal who in 2006 -won the first title sans Bryant; Kobe then one-upped him by hoisting two more trophies in 2009 and 2010.
Now, the not-so-petty disagreements have reportedly been replaced by mutual respect, and Bryant says despite all the acrimonious times hes happy for ONeal and all he accomplished.
"Throughout his career he's always tried not to be sensitive," Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. "But hopefully he will kind of let himself go a little bit. The fans should give him what he deserves because he gave us phenomenal, phenomenal years. The thing that I respected about him was when he stepped on the court he was ferocious. That's the thing we both had in common. Between those lines nothing could stop us.
"(The breakup) was inevitable," he continued. "You can't expect Michael Jordan to play with Wilt Chamberlain for his entire career. That's just not going to work. I had too much talent and too much to showcase.
Lakers great Earvin Magic Johnson agreed, but lamented the fact that the two couldnt get past their differences.
It probably cost us at least two or three more championships, Johnson said, shaking his head. If they could have played together, wed definitely have many more banners up on the wall. Sometimes, though, you just have to move on.
Johnson says ONeal deserves to have his jersey retired as much as any of the others already hanging in the Staples Center rafters.
Shaq has been one of the most dominant Lakers weve ever had, Magic said. He and Wilt Chamberlain were centers with strength, agility and size. They couldnt be stopped. What Shaq did as a Laker, we hadnt seen done probably since Wilt (played).
When Dr. Buss and Jerry West brought him here, paired him with Kobe and brought in Phil (Jackson), we won three in a row and just dominated the league. Shaq dominated the game with his abilities, and he dominated the city with his big personality.
Im happy Shaq was able to wear the purple and gold, and represent this city and win championships. His jersey should go up, and I know hes excited by it.
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