The rivalry between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal never really died, it just lies dormant for brief periods before something unearths it for yet another examination. That is what happened this week, when comments Bryant made in an interview with Patrick Bet-David began to make the rounds.
Bryant claimed that if O'Neal had his work ethic, he would have 12 championships and that O'Neal would be the greatest player of all time. O'Neal responded in an Instagram comment that Bryant "woulda had twelve if u passed the ball more especially in the finals against the pistons #facts." He then added "You don't get statues by not working hard."
On the topic of Bryant not passing, Raja Bell shared an incredible story on CBS Sports' "Kanell and Bell" podcast. Bell played with O'Neal on the Phoenix Suns, after O'Neal's time with Bryant had ended. While there, O'Neal explained to Bell that the Lakers had a signal they would use when they planned to stop passing the ball to Bryant because he was shooting too much:
"Shaq told me a story. We had a kid named Gordon Giricek on our Suns team, he had gotten there, and Gordon would go in the game, and Gordon was about his buckets. So Gordon would get in, and no matter what we were doing, no matter what the flow or the chemistry was, Gordon would be just, you know, shooting the ball. Gordon was my guy, I played with him in Utah.
"But Shaq started saying 'hey guys, this is the symbol' (twitches thumbs downward) 'when I give you this, Gordon doesn't get the ball anymore.' And I'm like 'dude what is the background on that, where'd you come up with that?' And he was like 'when Kobe was young, he would be going in and just trying to get 'em, so the rest of us had a universal kind of code that if we looked at each other and went (gives signal) then that meant Kobe didn't get the ball anymore.'"
Bryant's selfish play was a major point of contention between him and O'Neal during their heyday with the Los Angeles Lakers. By this account, it seems as if most Lakers players sided with O'Neal. Bryant's assist numbers rose after O'Neal was dealt to the Miami Heat, but he was never known for his passing just as O'Neal was never known for his fitness. Both players were great, but flawed, which adds an ironic twist to their debate. They each might have been better off with a little bit more of the other's personality.