Kobe Bryant joined Shaquille O'Neal for a much-hyped podcast released Monday, and the two quickly set upon mending fences, downplaying their legendary fued, and joking about how dominant they were in what they feel was a much tougher era.
Here are ten things you need to know about Shaq's podcast with the Black Mamba:
1. Modern-day Shaq was stunned at some of the things he said about the situation back in the day. Right off the bat, at the 1:50 mark, Shaq commented on a series of clips played at the beginning of the show, saying he didn't remember saying about half the things that were said, most especially that he demanded a trade publicly. "I don't remember saying that at all. That's a bold move," O'Neal said of his brash younger self. O'Neal also said that he doesn't have remorse over what he said, but that now, he would "have to be more politically correct." O'Neal said later in the podcast that he "never wanted to leave LA." That's probably true, but it was still his choice.
2. Shaq called their rivalry a "workplace beef." Both before Bryant joins the podcast and after, O'Neal referred to it as a "workplace beef," in that there was never anything personal about it. O'Neal repeatedly mentioned that whenever he sees Bryant or his family in public, he's warm and embracing towards the family, and that it was about business and basketball, never a personal issue between the two. That's probably why Bryant appeared on Shaq's podcast and probably won't appear anywhere with Karl Malone.
3. Shaq said he didn't really mean that he planned to "murder" Kobe. Despite both he and Kobe confirming that O'Neal once threatened to "murder" Bryant, O'Neal tried to play it off around the 28-minute mark. "Yeah, I said it, but I didn't mean it," O'Neal said, which prompted Bryant to laugh and say that he wasn't bothered by it, because, in typical Kobe Bryant fashion, his response was to embrace the challenge.
"The only thing I said was 'Come on, then,'" Bryant said of his response to the threat. Man, wouldn't that have been something.
4. Shaq mended fences right off the bat. O'Neal introduced his former teammate by calling him "The Greatest Laker of All Time." That's incredibly high, if arguable, praise for Bryant given all the greats to have worn a Lakers jersey over the years -- notably Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, both of whom would likely garner plenty of votes in any sort of public survey.
An interesting debate is where O'Neal would fit in that hierarchy if the Buss family had chosen O'Neal over Bryant in their dispute in 2004. O'Neal went on to win a title with Miami and remained productive through the 2009 season. Would another five years, making it a dozen years in the gold and purple, have placed him higher? It's hard to see O'Neal having as much success as Bryant has had, even with the disappointing 2005 through 2007 stretch. Bryant won two more titles and made a third Finals appearance post-O'Neal. But it's at least interesting to think about.
Once Bryant joined the show, O'Neal immediately launched into a quick preamble to Bryant, saying "I just want people to know I don't hate you, you don't hate me. We had a lot of disagreements and a lot of arguments, but it was never personal." Much of the dialogue seemed intent on letting people know that there are no ongoing hard feelings, and that the two have very much moved on.
O'Neal even commented that the rivalry helped fuel the Lakers, and speculated that was in part why Phil Jackson never intervened and instead let the two go at it. Either that or Jackson had better things to do than play Dr. Phil to two multi-millionaire superstars.
5. Kobe gave Shaq props, too. "Shaq was a beast," Bryant said at the 23-minute mark. "He was always smiling, you'd see him on TNT... and that dude would rip your heart out." Bryant and Shaq clearly enjoyed talking about how much they dominated during that stretch, with Bryant saying that the two would actually call one another late at night during the playoffs and decide to "alternate who dominated" from series to series.
For all their talk of how much more physical the league was when they came in, and it was, it should be noted that the two would likely be unable to just "decide" who was going to dominate in matchups against the current top tier of teams. The league is softer now, maybe, but it's also probably better in terms of basketball skill than the comparatively weak league the Lakers stomped through in the early 2000's.
6. Bay-Boo will destroy you. The podcast crew joked around the 13-minute mark about how Bryant's wife Vanessa Bryant calls him "Bay-Boo" and then they asked Bryant how he would respond if LeBron James or another player called him that on the court. Bryant's response was priceless:
"I don't care what they say, Bay-Boo will still drop 60."
I mean, that's not going to happen -- Bryant needs to focus on dropping 60 games without suffering a season-ending injury more than he does 60 points in a game -- but still, the confidence has moved into "admirably quaint" territory, mostly because you know he really means it.
7. Kobe compares it to a hypothetical Michael Jordan-Wilt Chamberlain duo. Around the 18-minute mark, Bryant says that the situation was like if Jordan were coming into his own around the same time as the prime of Wilt Chamberlain, and they played together. Of course they were going to butt heads. O'Neal describes it early on as a matter of there being two alpha dogs in the same house.
In some ways, the Chamberlain comparison is unfair to O'Neal, who always brought it in the toughness department -- something Chamberlain, despite his statistical greatness, was often criticized for.
8. Bryant says the two never ran their mouths behind each other's back. "We said it to each other's faces," Bryant says at around the 11-minute mark. Bryant says that actually helped the team chemistry, because both knew where they stood. The way Bryant describes situations in which two players are nice to each other in person and then complaining behind their backs seemed a little pointed, as if he'd been in that situation before... but he didn't name any names.
9. Kobe said he would pass Michael Jordan in points when he was 18. O'Neal revealed that boast around the 14-minute mark. Shaq laughs about the fact that he dismissed the youngster making that kind of outrageous claim, only to see Bryant turn around and accomplish that historic mark last year. Shaq jokingly demands Bryant apologize for passing him on the list.
10. They both lamented how "soft" the league has become. Bryant said he doesn't know where all the 7-footers went. O'Neal replied that "You know where they went. We killed them all off." Bryant went on to say that the Olympics are actually more physical than the NBA is now, and that that's "the silliest thing in the world." Bryant also criticized the "buddy buddy" atmosphere in the league, in that he grew up in an era where guys hated each other and now everyone works out with everyone else.
AND-ONE: Maybe the best part of the show happened at the 26-minute mark when host John Kincade asked the two which would make a better league executive.
"Don't look at me," Bryant laughed. "I'd fire somebody in a second. I'd cut everybody."