The Los Angeles Lakers need no introduction. With 14 NBA Championships to their name, the Lakers are undoubtedly one of the most successful franchisees around. A major reason for the Lakers’ dominance of the NBA in the early 2000s was the combination of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Together the two led the Lakers to three back-to-back titles between 2000 and 2002 and four finals berths in five years, before a series of ugly spats eventually led to a breakup in 2004.
On Sunday, O’Neal and Bryant will, for the first time in five years, line up next to each other. Part of the Western Conference side, both will be hoping recreate some of the magic and lead their team to a win.
Though neither confirmed reports of alleged bust-ups, the fact that O’Neal and Bryant were not exactly the best of buddies was well known. O’Neal’s move to Miami Heat — from where he moved to the Phoenix Suns — seemed to have made things better.
With the past seemingly behind them, the two are eagerly awaiting a reunion. “It’s great to be back on the same court with Kobe. We never fought during practice or during any of the games. There were some heated discussions but that happens in every locker room and honestly, all of that supposed spat was just pure marketing,” said O’Neal.
Bryant too denied any such incidents, instead appreciating his former partner.
“I think Shaq and I have a lot in common. I’m always intense and serious and he is fooling around and having fun. But when the lights turn on, he is a different man. He becomes a beast,” Bryant said.
The fellow All-Stars are also waiting for the two to burn the court up together.
“I think it’s both emotional and nostalgic to see them on the same side again. I think they both could have taken Lakers to six or seven more NBA titles," said four-time NBA champion Tim Duncan.
It could well be for one last time, but both O'Neal and Bryant are determined to make it count.