Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant shared the spotlight as Los Angeles Lakers superstars for eight years. Throughout that stretch, the tension between the two perennial NBA All-Stars was present at times, and it culminated with an unsurprising fallout in 2004.
There were underlying factors as to why the Shaq-Kobe tandem collapsed, but most fans knew it was basically a clash of egos. It was inevitable as O'Neal was arguably the most dominant big man in the league. On the other hand, Bryant simply knew he was a star right from the jump.
"Showboat" wanted to be the guy
It is a fact that when Bryant took off, he and O'Neal engaged in a silent war about who's who on the Lakers squad. Shaq was the focal point of the offense for obvious reasons, while some viewed Bryant as inconsistent at the time. But if there was something in Kobe that was constant, it was his remarkable confidence.
At 17, the rookie Bryant walked on the borderline between confident and cocky. Hence, O'Neal gave him the moniker "Showboat." Apparently, Shaq had a reason to do so, as even former Lakers head coach Del Harris could tell that the young Kobe was biting off something bigger than he could chew.
"One time, [Kobe] he said, 'Coach, if you can get Shaq out of the post sometimes, I can take anybody one-on-one in his league," Harris revealed via The Ringer. "And I said, 'Kobe, I believe that, but there's two things. First, you can do that, but you can't do it a high enough percentage of times for a big winning team like us. And second, I'm not moving Shaq out of there so that you can do that.' I said, 'Now, there'll be a day, but it's not now. And you just have to wait your time.'"
Mamba since day 1
Of course, Bryant's request to be the Lakers' go-to guy wasn't granted. Instead, he spent his first several years in the NBA under O'Neal's shadow. But according to Shaq, everything was crystal clear, and not one day had passed that he forgot about what Kobe wanted ever since day one.
"The most memorable moment is when he came in at 17 and wanted to be the best ever," O'Neal said of Bryant. "And we had to be like, 'Hey man, chill. Relax, you're gonna get there.' We had to, like, let him go."
As we all know, Bryant's time came. He eventually became the face of the Lakers, and arguably, he even surpassed O'Neal in the storied franchise's all-time great spectrum.