When they first became teammates in 1996, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant already had some brewing tension. The root could be traced to their opposite personalities. Shaq was a good-humored man, while Kobe’s demeanor was all business. It can also be traced to the single goal they shared: to be heralded as one of the foremost legends in basketball history. This involved, up to a certain extent, stepping on the toes of your teammates, forcing them to sacrifice for your cause. Kobe and Shaq understood this. And not one of them wanted to budge.
AC Green, known as the Iron Man for he holds the NBA record for most consecutive regular-season games played with 1,192, was inside the locker room during one of the many peaks of the Kobe-Shaq feud. It was the 1999-2000 NBA season, and the Lakers were losing more games than they should. Green, who the Lakers acquired for his knowledge of the triangle offense and veteran presence, immediately knew the team’s problem and the only way to solve it.
“I remember in our team locker room, Phil was having a meeting, a film session, and we’ve got our two superstars not seeing eye to eye. We got the Shaq group, the Kobe group, and the veteran guys who have already won a championship. We’re like in the middle, looking at one another like, ‘You know what we gotta do, right?’AC Green, Off The Dribble: The Byron Scott Podcast
Next thing you know, we’re like, ‘Coaches, can you all leave the room for a minute?’ Let’s just say some choice words were exchanged. Some voices got high. Some furniture got moved. The point got across and the mission got on. Then we went on another winning streak, and they finally started to see that this is how you win, and this is how you actually start to look out after one another.”
The Lakers, as Green noted, did not just start winning regular-season games. They eventually won the 2000 NBA Finals. This was proof that the Kobe-Shaq duo was the real deal. For Green, he won his third ring — all as a member of the Purple and Gold. He also became the only player in league history to win titles with the legendary duos of Kobe-Shaq and Magic–Kareem.
The Kobe-Shaq partnership became what it is today because of several factors. The most significant component is obviously Bryant and O’Neal, who chose to put it aside for a greater cause amid their differences. The other aspect is their teammates, who had to confront the everyday challenge of containing the two stars before one of them explodes. Safe to say that Green and the rest of the veterans intervened at the right time. If it weren’t for their quick thinking, then the dynasty possibly wouldn’t have been born.