Kobe Bryant Refused to Pass to Shaquille O’Neal Despite His Persistent Demand for the Ball: ‘Get It Off the Rebound If I Miss’

The Los Angeles Lakers achieved tremendous championship success with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal leading the charge. The two became one of the league’s greatest duos, but the pairing split apart due to the constant internal friction. In Bryant‘s rookie campaign, he quickly set the tone with the stern relationship with O’Neal.

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal lifted the Lakers to greatness

In the summer of 1996, the Lakers changed the franchise’s fate with two key offseason moves.

Los Angeles signed O’Neal while trading for Bryant’s draft rights. The two became the foundation of the franchise’s success in their eight-year tenure together. The Lakers earned three NBA titles in four Finals appearances while securing three Pacific division titles and winning 50-plus games all but once (strike-shortened 1998-99 season).

The tenure together featured some intense moments that played a significant part in defining their relationship. One of those instances occurred in Bryant’s rookie year.

Kobe Bryant refused to pass to Shaquille O’Neal despite his persistent demand for the ball: ‘Get it off the rebound if I miss’

Bryant and O’Neal’s eight-year tenure featured much success while dealing with constant friction due to their headstrong personalities.

The Lakers guard entered the league with a brash personality. It quickly became cemented as he held a strong-willed mindset regardless of the situation. During an interview with Valuetainment in August 2019, Bryant recalled a memorable instance with O’Neal in his rookie year where he refused to pass the ball to the star center because of his missed free throw attempts.

“He kept going to the free throw and kept missing them,” Bryant recounted. “He would throw the ball out to me. I’m not throwing that s–t back in there right. I kept shooting it, and we get into the timeout he was like, ‘Hey I’m open.’ I was like, ‘Okay,’ Then we go out [back on the court] and it was the same thing.

“He comes back, ‘Hey, hey I’m open.’ Then we come back again, he says, ‘Dude you got to throw me the ball.’I said, ‘F–k that. Get it off the rebound if I miss. [I was]18 years old man. I must have been out of my damn mind.”

Bryant behaved like this in his rookie year when he was only a bench reserve playing 15.5 minutes per contest averaging 7.6 points. Meanwhile, O’Neal was already a bonafide star as the team’s central offensive piece, giving him more of the leeway in any situation.

However, Bryant’s stern mindset, coupled with his eventual stellar play, earned him the established offensive role next to O’Neal. His approach contributed to the friction between the two stars, but the anecdote demonstrates that he held that firm mindset even at 18 years old.

Lakers’ tenure together should be defined by success not friction

Bryant and O’Neal’s tenure may have ended sooner than it should have, but it shouldn’t overshadow their greatness together.

The two became one of the league’s best duos while guiding the Lakers to sustained success. The pairing could have added a few more championships if they remained together, but the eight-year stint featured both becoming all-time talents.

O’Neal became one of the league’s most dominant players. Meanwhile, Bryant came into his own as an elite star who became recognized as the closest player to Michael Jordan.

The stint saw the two come into their own while elevating the franchise to tremendous heights. Beyond that, the pairing should be remembered most for what they accomplished on the court and not the friction off it.

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