In an interview for Oprah’s Master Class, Shaquille O’Neal talked about his relationship with Kobe and the notion that they didn’t get along with each other for quite some time. Even though that might have been true, it was never so severe as the media portrayed it to be. Shaq said there was a lot of respect between them, and they accomplished a lot together during those years, winning three championships in a row.
“A lot of people ask me if I would change the way me and Kobe. No. We did what we were supposed to do. We won three in a row. We went to the finals four out of five years, and it doesn’t get better than that. We both definitely respected each other. Do you know how he respected me?”
Shaq remembers one specific and also iconic moment when he knew the respect between the two greats is genuine. It was game 7 of the 2000 western conference finals against the Blazers when they were down by 15 and made a historic comeback in front of their home crowd. The moment that everybody remembers from that game is the alley-oop Kobe threw to Shaq for a five-point lead and the win. That was the moment that Shaq will forever fondly remember because, in some way, it started their reign as the best duo in NBA at that time.
“Game 7. We’re down. I’m telling Kobe I’m opened. I got you; I got you. He crosses up Scottie Pippen and catches eye contact with me and throws it super super high. I have to go up and get it, throw it down, and put us up by five. I know we are going to win and that we are going to the finals. After we win the championship, who jumps in my arms? Kobe Bryan. Like a little seven-year-old, who’s dad, came home from the military and surprised him, so he jumps on him. “
The Lakers were fortunate enough to have two of the best five players in the league at the same time, and they brought the best in each other. Shaq said the respect was always there, but like in any relationship, there are times where there are some turmoils that you need to overcome. Shaq also gave a piece of valuable advice, saying respect is necessary for any relationship.
“We always respected each other. You got two alpha males going at it. You are not always going to get along. The key component in when you are on the team, in a relationship when you have business partners. One word, and that is respect. You don’t have to like the person, but you have to respect them. “