How Kobe Bryant and Shaq’s Feud Led to the Lakers Becoming “Non-functional,” according to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


Many years ago, there was a feud between the two athletes.

The Los Angeles Lakers have one of the most legendary stories in the history of sports, although not without unpleasant moments. One of the most turbulent periods in the history of the NBA occurred in the mid-2000s, when a feud began between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The tension between the duo (who have won three championships together) is detailed in “Legacy: The True Story of the Los Angeles Lakers” (available for streaming on a Hulu subscription). Now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — one of the interview participants — has shared some additional information about how Bryant-O’Neal’s beef led to the team becoming “dysfunctional” at the time.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar may have stopped playing for the Lakers in 1989, but the legendary center was still around in the early 2000s. At that time, Abdul-Jabbar was sometimes present at training sessions, as shown in archival footage presented in “Heritage”. Following the seventh and eighth episodes of the show, Abdul-Jabbar shared some behind-the-scenes details with fans through his newsletter. When it came to the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal feud, the Hall of Famer stated that the dysfunction was partly the result of Shaq wanting his teammate to miss more:

”Shak wanted Kobe to pass more, and Kobe didn’t care what Shak thought. When your two most dominant players don’t get along, the team becomes dysfunctional. No one is happy, there is no stability in the team, each game feels like a separate battlefield, and not as part of the current season.”

Many probably remember how much attention the Lakers attracted at that time. Although the two players had disagreements throughout their time as teammates, it seemed that by the 2003-2004 NBA season the situation had reached a climax. At that time, both stars also fell into a stupor because of the comments they made in the media.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar can definitely relate to the experience of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal more than most. A few years ago, Abdul-Jabbar was faced with the presence of a highly motivated young player in the person of Erwin “Magic” Johnson when he was selected by Los Angeles in 1979. they played together. (As a result, they also won a total of five championships.) Speaking about Bryant and O’Neal, Abdul-Jabbar said that Black Mamba did not agree with Shaq’s work ethic at the time.:

”The problem was that Kobe was obsessed with reaching the top as a player, so he stayed in top shape all year round. But he believed that Shaq lacked commitment to the game and the team, as he allows himself to lose form in the offseason and barely returns to form for the season. Because of this, Kobi lost respect for Shaq, and Shaq lost all influence over Kobi.”

Although the relationship seemed contentious for a while, they eventually settled the situation during a lengthy interview in 2018. This reconciliation became even more significant after the death of Kobe Bryant at the age of 41 in 2020. Shaquille O’Neal was among many who paid tribute to the star after his passing and honored Bryant again on the anniversary of his passing. More recently, Shaq explained how he pushed Bryant’s buttons to motivate him. Diesel also showed support for Bryant’s widow, Vanessa, amid her recent lawsuit over the deaths of her husband and daughter.

The dysfunction Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is talking about may have been difficult for the Lakers organization at the time, but in the end, things got better for both the stars and the organization as a whole. Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004 and won a fourth championship, and Kobe Bryant led the Lakers to two additional NBA titles. But, in the end, what’s especially nice to know is that these two were eventually able to overcome the drama.

Those who want to learn more about the history of one of the most respected NBA teams can watch the new episodes of the series “Legacy: The True Story of the Los Angeles Lakers”, which are released on Wednesdays as part of the TV program for 2022.


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