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NBA Player Heated Rivalries: Shaquille O'Neal vs. Kobe Bryant

How Two Of The Best Friends In The NBA Became Enemies

As the Summer Series comes to an end, it's time to start looking forward to the 2022-23 season.

Last season gave us a range of unexpected results including LeBron not making it to the playoffs, a Golden State Warriors win, and Scottie Barnes making a huge impact on the league.

Who knows what the next season will hold. You can find a full list of Odds to Win NBA Finals for next season here.

While we are waiting for the 2022-23 season to start, we want to take a look at one of the most iconic pairings and rivalries in the history of the NBA.

Yes, we want to take a closer look at the Shaq vs Kobe Bryant rivalry - how it started, how it played out, and how it ended.

Kobe Bryant
1996-2016 Los Angeles Lakers
5 NBA Finals Titles - 2000-2002, 2009, 2010
Finals MVP - 2009 & 2010

Kobe Bryant was born in Philadelphia, the third son of NBA player Joe Bryant. He started playing basketball at a very young age and had supported the Lakers all of his life.

During his childhood, Bryant's father played professional basketball in Italy. Kobe used to shoot hoops as part of the team's halftime shows. It was obvious from an early age that he had a talent for the sport.

After a nationally celebrated and incredibly successful high school basketball career, Bryant entered the 1996 Draft without going to college.

Bryant was picked 13th overall in the Draft as part of a trade between the Hornets and the Lakers. He was the first guard to be drafted straight out of high school and he was so young (17) at this point that he needed his parents to co-sign his contract.

Bryant spent his whole career playing for the Lakers.

With the Lakers, he won 5 NBA Finals, including the infamous Lakers' triple between 2000 and 2002. He was an 18-time all-star (1998, 2000-2016).

Bryant also won two Olympic gold medals with Team USA - 2008 and 2012.

Shaquille O'Neal
1992-1996 Orlando Magic
1996-2004 Los Angeles Lakers
2004-2008 Miami Heat
2008-2009 Phoenix Suns
2009-2010 Cleveland Cavaliers
2010-2011 Boston Celtics
4 NBA Titles - 2000-2002, 2006
NBA Finals MVP - 2000, 2001, 2002

O'Neal was born in New Jersey. His stepfather was an Army Sergeant, so he spent some of his early life in Germany before the family moved to Texas.

By the age of 16, Shaq was 6"10. He was incredibly successful while playing High School basketball. He was so successful that he was snapped up by the LSU Tigers.

During his college years, O'Neal was a two-time All-American and a two-time SEC Player of the Year. Although he never won a high trophy with the team.

Shaq entered the 1992 Draft and was picked 1st overall by the Orlando Magic. However, the first real success of Shaq's career came when he moved to the Lakers. Here he was paired with a young guard called Kobe Bryant.

Together they won 3 NBA titles in a row. Shaq was named the MVP in all three of these finals.

O'Neal would go on to win his fourth NBA title while playing for the Heat in 2006. The Rivalry The Shaq vs Bryant rivalry didn't start that way.

The pair got on incredibly well when they played in Los Angeles together. They ended up being one of the most successful pairings in the history of the NBA.

When playing for the Lakers, the pair went on to win the NBA Finals in 2000, 2001, and 2002.

In the next few years, the pair began to disagree on their roles within the team and eventually, Shaq moved to another team. Shaq made it obvious that he thought Bryant would never win another NBA title without him, but that he would be fine without Bryant.

This argument got particularly heated after Shaq won the 2006 Finals. However, Bryant would go on to win the 2009 and 2010 Finals with the Lakers. Overall, Kobe had more NBA titles.

At a party in 2008, after Bryant had lost in the Finals, O'Neal was recorded rapping about Bryant having no talent.

Shaq retired in 2011 and this was the event that caused the pair to start to reconcile. By the start of 2013, the pair had made up and were said to be on good terms.

Bryant was the first guest on O'Neil's podcast, and they spent the whole episode reflecting on their feud. After Bryant's Death On January 26, 2020, Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash. His 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people also died in the crash.

Shaq was one of the first people to speak publicly about the tragic accident.

O'Neal spoke at the public memorial that was Bryant and was also present when Bryant was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2021. O'Neal stated that his life was changed after Bryant's death and that he still dearly misses his friend and former teammate.