Winning a championship requires a team to set aside all differences and come together in pursuit of the ultimate goal. However, sometimes the differences that are set aside are larger than one would expect from a championship roster. Despite this, these teams managed to do the impossible and win it all in a locker room that was not exactly on the same page.
Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen
Rajon Rondo emerged at the exact right time. He turned what was presumed to be a Big 3 in Boston and made it a Big 4. When four All-Stars come together, however, there is likely to be some ego and clashing of heads. With Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett as the de facto leaders of the Celtics locker room, this meant that Rondo and Ray Allen were constantly in competition for that third spot.
As the ball handler, Rondo was the leader of the offense, at least in principle. One would assume that when one of the best passers came across one of the best shooters in NBA that it would work beautifully. And in theory, it did as the team won a championship.
However, Rondo’s storied ability to divide a locker room did not mesh well with a player of Ray Allen’s merits, and it reportedly got so bad that Rondo refused to pass Allen the ball.
Eventually, Allen became the definitive odd man out, and he gave the Celtics a parting gift on the way out of joining the rival Miami Heat and winning an NBA championship without them.
Upon Allen’s retirement, Rondo was asked about his thoughts, he simply said, “I thought he already was [retired].” The Celtics still appear to have some lingering issues with Allen, who reportedly wasn’t invited to a recent reunion.
Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter were both the faces of the New York Yankees for many years and polar opposites in the way that they chose to handle themselves. Jeter is still considered synonymous with the Yankees, even as he spearheads operations over in Miami.
Alex Rodriguez’s legacy is a little bit more complicated. From PED-suspensions to an unfortunate decline, Rodriguez’s Yankee career was never what they thought it would be when they got him.
Part of the problem appears to be that Rodriguez had a certain amount of jealousy for Jeter. Despite Jeter having a reputation for his exploits on and off the field, he never tried to be a celebrity like Rodriguez was when he was off the field. It doesn’t mean that he didn’t take advantage of his celebrity status, but Rodriguez’s ability to blur those lines proved to be a nuisance for Jeter.
Neil Best of Newsday highlights this “mean streak” Jeter has for Rodriguez. Referring to a book by Ian O’Connor, Best speaks about how many don’t know the exact origins, just that Jeter has a knack for honing in on those he dislikes and never letting go. Both are retired, but Jeter seems to have a greater lingering impact on the fans of the Yankees, having helped win the team multiple championships.
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant
Perhaps the most famous rival teammates in the history of sports, Shaq and Kobe could not stand each other even when they were winning championships. They especially couldn’t stand each other when they were not.
In 2004, following the Lakers’ failure to win a championship after assembling an aging super-team, the two’s relationship was deemed irreparable, and Shaquille O’Neal was shipped out of town in favor of Kobe.
It’s hard to pinpoint one thing that set the two off, other than the fact that they were polar opposites. Bryant is notoriously connected to the game of basketball and demands his teammates hold a similar work ethic and commitment.
Shaq, on the other hand, was a player with a knack for sideshow antics, celebrity exploits, and effort that could be inconsistent.
Shaq was considered the biggest part of the three-peat the two had, and Bryant did not like that at all. Perhaps the final straw, however, had to do with Kobe Bryant’s rape investigation, when Bryant attached Shaq’s name as someone who had paid off his alleged mistresses and this went public.
The aftermath stretched for several years and included pot shots, rap songs, and even an All-Star appearance where the two won co-MVP.