Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal are among the best one-two punches in NBA history, and even though they won 3 championships together, there was always a sense they could have done more together. In a recent interview for the Valuetainment, Kobe said he would have 12 titles if Shaq had the same work ethic as Kobe did throughout his career. One important reason for their incredible success was their relationship ever since the Los Angeles Lakers drafted Kobe.
Most of the time, rookies follow and listen to older and more experienced teammates, but that wasn’t the case with Shaq and Kobe when they started playing together. In one of his older interviews, the late great Kobe talked about the time during his rookie year when he got into a fistfight with Shaq in practice, which shocked everyone because nobody thought a skinny 18-year-old kid would want to fight against a 7’1″, 300 pounds Shaq.
“My teammates were absolutely crazy when me and Shaq got into a fistfight. After that day, they said I was certifiable. I am not backing down. There is a level of respect and from Shaq too. He told me that day was a big turning point for him. Generally, he was used to talking trash and saying what he wants and nobody stepping up and challenging him. When he saw me challenge him for that, he thought I was crazy. From that moment, he knew that he can win with this kid.”Kobe Bryant, via Valuetainment
Bryant believes this event shaped their relationship in a way that made them both realize they can win with each other playing on the same team. They were both extremely competitive, and at that time, Shaq was the most dominant player in the league while Kobe was emerging as the best guard in the NBA. That meant the rest of the NBA was in big trouble, which they proved by winning three championships in a row. Who could have thought a fistfight would actually have a useful purpose in a relationship like theirs and ignite the tremendous success they both had with the Lakers.