At the time, Shaq had already established himself as the NBA’s most dominant player, while 19-year-old Kobe was getting ready to take the league by storm. According to sportswriter Jeff Perlman, one day, the two ended up in the same open gym, playing pick-up against one another. The run in question would apparently become the foundation of the Shaq and Kobe beef.
Like most altercations that occur during pick-up games, the one between the two started over a quarrel regarding personal fouls. Every time he missed, Shaq called a foul. It didn’t take long for Kobe to react.
Miss. Shaq: "Foul!" Miss. Shaq: "Foul!"
"I'm tired of this s---," Bryant finally said. "Just play."
"One more comment like that," O'Neal snapped, "and I slap the s--- out of you."
A few possessions later, Bryant drove toward the rim, leaned into O'Neal's body, and scooped the ball beneath his raised arm and into the hoop. It was a pretty move, but nothing otherworldly.
Kobe: "F--- you!" he screamed at O'Neal. "This is my team! My motherf---ing team!"
It felt edgy. Everything stopped. "He wasn't talking about the pickup team," Polynice recalled. "He was talking about the Lakers."
O'Neal wasn't having it. "No, motherf---er!" he screamed. "This is my team!"
"F--- you!" Bryant replied. "Seriously -- f--- you! You're not a leader. You're nothing!"
Shaq: What did he just say?
"I will get your ass traded," O'Neal said. "Not a problem."
Shaq never got Kobe traded, but instead, he was traded himself in 2004 when the Lakers moved him to Miami and kept Kobe as their franchise player. He did, however, keep his promise of smacking the fire out of young Kobe’s mouth.
"We probably went up and down the court two more times," Polynice said. "Kobe goes to the basket, scores, screams at Shaq, 'Yeah, motherf---er! That s--- ain't gonna stop me!'"
O'Neal grabbed the ball in order to freeze action.
"Say another motherf---ing word," he said, staring directly at Bryant.
"Aw, f--- you," Bryant said. "You don't know sh--"
O'Neal slapped Bryant across the face. Hard.
You can already assume what happened next; after a short scuffle, the other players that were there for the run stepped in and separated the two. And thank God, they did because apparently, Shaq was ready to murder Kobe that day.
The two later went on to win three NBA championships together before their relationship deteriorated so much that they were forced to part ways.
Here’s to Shaq and Kobe, the most dysfunctional dynamic duo in NBA history.