NBA All-Star weekend is nearly over, and there have been a number of exciting moments from the first two nights. One of the most interesting, however, did not come on the court, but rather from a discussion between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.
With the festivities in Los Angeles, the former Lakers teammates sat down for a lively discussion. At one point, the two were discussing their infamous breakup, and Bryant told Shaq that he was preparing to request a trade to the Chicago Bulls in 2004. Before he could do so, however, the Lakers traded the big man to the Miami Heat.
The full discussion below:
Shaq: If you can remember, that summer, we were playing in Hawaii. I think I was trying to get some new money. I had a nice little game in Hawaii, and I ran by the great Jerry Buss, and I was like 'pay me, pay me.' So I kinda new he was upset with that. After the game in the Finals, we lost, we had that team dinner. He came in and he sat by you, and your beautiful wife Vanessa, he didn't say nothing to me. I said to myself, 'uh oh, I'm in trouble.'
So two days later, me and little Shareef and Mimi, we're at the counter, Muholland estate eating Frosted Flakes, and I hear Mitch Kupchak say we will be taking inquiries on Shaq. I just dropped the bowl, like, 'what?' I jumped in the car and I came down here to see Mitch, and the cops were already waiting. 'You can't come in here Shaq.'
Kobe: He had the cops waiting for you, huh?
Shaq: Yeah, cause he knew, cause he knew. I was coming out here to choke his ass. I was gonna choke the air outta Mitch Kupchak.
Kobe: See I didn't get any of that, cause we were looking for homes. We were actually looking for homes in Chicago, researching schools, places to live.
Shaq: So that was true, you were gonna go to the Bulls?
Kobe: Yeah. There was a story in ESPN, I think it was ESPN Magazine, and they asked you a question about me and Penny. And you said we were essentially the same. And I looked at that and said, uh, 'no, we're not.'
Shaq: But I think you took that the wrong way, because of all the misquotes and the bad stuff.
Kobe: I probably did, and I probably used it as motivation too. Saying, listen, if this is the conversation, I don't want this conversation. When I retire, I don't want people to say, 'OK, he only won because of Shaq.' As unfair as that is, Magic never won without Cap, right? Michael never won without Scottie. But here I am, getting stuck with this argument, which is not fair, yet this is the argument people will make, and I'm not OK with that. Therefore, I knew OK, I gotta go.
Shaq: I had actually heard that, but I didn't believe it.
Kobe: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. We were looking for places in Chicago, man, we were flying up there to meet with Reinsdorf and Paxson.
Shaq: You were gonna leave sunny California to go to cold-ass Chicago?
Kobe: Vanessa signed off on moving to out to, Lake Forest, I think it was in Chicago. We went on vacation to Italy, and I got a phone call. Rob Pelinka called me, and he said, 'Shaq just requested a trade.' I was like, 'well there goes Chicago, because there was no way the Lakers are gonna lose me and Shaq in the same year.'
This was a fascinating back and forth between the two players, and a rare insight into not only how close Bryant was to leaving the Lakers, but also why he wanted to leave. Plus, the fact that Shaq seems to be having the stories he heard confirmed for the first time is a strange bit of TV.
The summer of 2004 is also one of the most incredible what-ifs in NBA history. It's almost impossible to think of all the different ways the league would have changed if Kobe had forced his way to the Bulls, while Shaq ended up staying on the Lakers.