Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal defined their legacy with the Los Angeles Lakers by guiding the franchise to three NBA titles. However, Bryant believed O’Neal could have led the Lakers to more championship success if he changed one aspect of his career.
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal led the Lakers to championship dominance
Bryant and O’Neal spent eight seasons together where they transformed the Lakers into a powerhouse.
The two stars guided the franchise to relevancy, earning three NBA titles in four overall Finals appearances. During that stretch, O’Neal became an opposing physical force that anchored Los Angeles’ success.
Meanwhile, Bryant developed into the game’s top guard behind his tremendous work ethic and talent. However, the star guard voiced that he believed the Lakers could have earned more championships if O’Neal changed one aspect of his NBA career.
Kobe Bryant dished out a backhanded compliment while bashing Shaquille O’Neal’s work ethic: ‘He’d be the greatest of all time‘
It’s no secret that Bryant and O’Neal didn’t see eye-to-eye, but the two shared the utmost respect for each other’s talent.
However, what always drove a wrench into the relationship was O’Neal’s work ethic. The star guard grew quite bothered by the big man’s commitment to his craft. During an interview at the PHP Convention in Las Vegas in August 2019, Bryant voiced that he believed that if O’Neal had his work ethic, he would have been the greatest player ever and won 12 championships together in Los Angeles.
“He’d be the greatest of all time,” Bryant said. “He’d be the first to tell you that. This guy was a force like I have never seen. It was crazy. Generally, guys at that size are a little timid and they don’t want to be big. This dude did not care. He was mean, he was nasty. He was competitive. He was vindictive. I wish he was in the gym. I would’ve had f–king 12 rings.”
Bryant was likely exaggerating with the number of NBA titles won, but he was well aware of how much his work ethic lifted him to greater heights. It’s what pulled the most out of him to become of the greatest players in league history. Meanwhile, O’Neal became the NBA’s most dominant player for several years alongside Bryant without that mental approach and commitment to the game.
It wasn’t a strike toward O’Neal’s talent, but that Bryant firmly believed that combined with an impeccable work ethic, his dominance could have taken off into another stratosphere.
Shaquille O’Neal responded to Kobe Bryant’s harsh comments
It didn’t take long for O’Neal to catch wind of Bryant’s not-so-subtle comments.
The Hall of Fame big man took to Instagram to fire back at his former Lakers teammate, voicing that Bryant’s selfishness cost him the opportunity to win more NBA titles.
“U woulda had twelve if u passed the ball more, especially in the finals against the pistons #facts,” O’Neal stated via CBS Sports. “You don’t get statues by not working hard.”
O’Neal’s comments hold some credence, but the two admitted over the years that the lack of maturity played a significant factor. Meanwhile, the four-time champion confessed to Bryant during their NBA TV one-on-one interview special that he slacked off at times because he knew the star guard would pick up where he lacked.
It’s a double-edged sword, but it’s more than fair to assess that the two left plenty on the table. It’s a what-if scenario that will always remain a part of their shared legacy in Los Angeles.