After the sun set on the Michael Jordan era, the world welcomed a new dawn with the rise of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. The duo brought back a smile to the Buss family’s face as they pulled the Los Angeles Lakers out of the dark.
But something was off. Batman and his Robin didn’t seem to be having the best time together. The duo joined the Lakers in the same season in 1996-97, and they helped their side win three back-to-back NBA titles. However, these wins were simply hiding the cold war that was brewing within the team.
Author Jeff Pearlman recently published his much-awaited book that covers the O’Neal-Bryant era of the Los Angeles Lakers. In Three-Ring Circus: Kobe, Shaq, Phil, and the Crazy Years, Pearlman unveiled minute details that he gathered from as many as 300 interviews.
The most startling detail was about Kobe’s aloofness during his initial days with the Lakers. On the Dan Patrick show, Pearlman said, “Jerry West loved JR Ryd[er]. He said, ‘I love the way you work with young players, can you help bring Kobe [Bryant] more into the team?’ Ryd is like ‘I got it’. They’re on the plane ‘yo Kobe, wanna come back here play cards with us?’ Nah, I’m good. ‘Yo Kobe wanna go and eat, five of us are going, why don’t you come with us?’ Nah, I’m good. ‘Yo Kobe wanna go see a movie?’ Nah, I’m good. He (JR) actually went back to Jerry West and said, ‘there’s nothing I can do here.’ and I think that relationship truly was a guy Shaquille’O Neal who wanted a bond and wanted to be this guy to this other guy.”
The author further added, “It’s not a criticism of him (Kobe) because it’s just who he was, Kobe Bryant just didn’t want that. He had no need for it.” For reasons best known to him, Kobe chose to keep his distance.
In the book, the author talked about Kobe’s private marriage function, and his disinterest in extending a friendly hand towards Shaq during those times of peak tensions. But what led to those issues?
Nothing can be stated with surety, but reports suggest that tensions arose because of Shaq’s comments on Kobe in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Shaq commented on Kobe’s crossovers/turnovers during the All-star game. However, fortunately for Shaq and Kobe, they would ease those tensions later in their career. The champions were on good terms before Black Mamba passed away.
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