The rivalry between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal has been well-documented in the sports world, but this week one of the men responsible for bringing them to the Lakers says he knew the two superstars would eventually clash.
Although the Lakers just finished up one of their worst seasons on record this year, loyal fans will remember a time when Bryant and O’Neal lead the team to three NBA titles in the early 2000s.
On a recent episode of In Depth with Graham Bensinger, Laker legend Jerry West recalls the 1996 off-season in which he not only acquired Bryant, but also landed free agent O’Neal. West explains he saw a 17 year-old Kobe Bryant quickly try to assert himself as an equal to the veteran Shaquille O’Neal both on and off the courts.
“If you watch teams–and let’s say somebody’s has a great player and he’s a little bit older–and you’ve got this up and coming star and all of a sudden that young up and coming star starts to look at him as being equal of the other player in terms of ability.“
As the two continued to play together, West explains, their diverse personalities began to show:
“I think Kobe Bryant played every game as if he didn’t like anyone he played against, he didn’t like fraternization. And Shaquille was like a big teddy bear who smiledbut you put him in a game where something was on the line and you wouldn’t want to play against Shaquille O’Neal.“
West says it was the major differences in temperament and maturity that ended up creating a major rift between the two:
“I think the combination of Kobe wanting to exert himself more than he had . And Shaquille being very vocal about who he wassometimes kidding ways, and always some kind of new nickname for himself. I think those two different personalities had to clash somewhere around the way.“
In the video, West describes the way he formulated relationships with Bryant and O’Neal and how doctors eventually advised West to scale back some of his workload as he become emotionally spent after trying to sign both of them to the Lakers.