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What Shaq said to Kobe in his first game back in LA: "I built this place."

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Christmas Day is a special holiday for everybody, but especially for NBA fans who get gifted with some fantastic games and amazing matchups specially picked for that day. This year we were unfortunately stripped away a bit from the flash, as numerous stars had to sit out due to Covid protocols and injuries. 

It's even more exciting when there's a storyline entering the game, and few were better than the 2004 battle between the Lakers and the Heat. The first duel between Kobe and Shaq after the bad-blooded fallout that led to Shaq getting traded was must-see TV, and it delivered. Heat legend Dwyane Wade also let us in on some of the talking that was happening on the court.

Overtime thriller

The Lakers were a true dynasty at the start of the 2000s, all thanks to the talented duo of Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. These two, supported by a great cast of role players, won three championships in a row and presented the ultimate powerhouse for years. But all that would come to an end because of the dispute between the two superstars.

Although they were perfect on the floor together, Kobe and Shaq were polar opposites off it. "The Mamba" was one of the most dedicated players in the NBA, working hard every day to improve, while "The Diesel" had a more relaxed approach to the game, relying on his god-given gift of size to carry him. That frustrated Kobe, who wanted Shaq to utilize all of his potential and power, eventually leading to the fallout between the two, which ended with O'Neal getting traded to the Heat to play alongside one other shooting guard star in the making named Dwyane Wade.

So when it was announced that the Heat would come to LA and face the Lakers on Christmas Day, everybody knew this would be a good one. The tension was in the air, and both stars wanted to prove that they were the better player. The 22-7 Heat came into the game as favorites, but you knew Kobe was going to let his 14-12 Lakers go down without a fight, especially in front of their crowd.

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The two stars had a cold embrace before tip-off, and the show started. The game was in the balance for the entirety as neither team managed to pull away. Both stars would show out in a great duel, but Shaq's Heat would eventually prevail in overtime, with Kobe missing the last-second three-pointer to win the game. 

Shaq showed he is still the man with a couple of monster dunks, notching 24 points and 11 rebounds. The Lakers had no one to really stop Shaq with the likes of Chris Mihm and Brian Grant trying to contain him. Wade also helped out a lot with 29 points and 10 assists. On the other side, Kobe did his thing, scoring 42 points with 6 assists, but he didn't have enough help outside of Lamar Odom (24p,11r).

In the end, nothing extra special happened between the two, but Shaq made sure to fire a sneaky diss in the post-game interview, saying they won because of team play rather than one player trying to score 50 points. 

D-Wade with the inside stuff

In a recent interview, one of the best players in that game, Dwyane Wade, shared how this was his favorite Christmas game and talked about the chatter that went on between Shaq and Kobe:

"My favorite Christmas moment is tough because I've played against Kobe, like 5 times on Christmas. I guess, my favorite one will have to be the first one when Shaq and we went back to LA for the Christmas game...I remember he be running down 'I built this place'. That was my favorite one."

Dwyane Wade, Renaissance Man

We all know how competitive and confident Kobe and Shaq both were, so it's no surprise these two put it all out on that night, all while talking smack to each other. Judged by the result of the game and the story of this trash-talk session, I must give this round to the big guy—classic stuff from a couple of legends. Most importantly, the two made amends and became good friends.

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