When Shaquille O’Neal Admitted That a 21-Year-Old Kobe Bryant Was the GOAT

Published 09/20/2021, 12:30 PM EDT
Los Angeles Lakers Shaquille O’Neal, left, shares a laugh with Kobe Bryant on the bench during a pre–season game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim Thursday, October 23, 2003. (Photo by Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)


There have been some iconic teammates through the years in the NBA. However, not many compare to Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. The Lakers duo won three championships together and truly got the best out of each other.

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While the two had a bitter-sweet journey in the NBA, they had nothing but admiration for one another. Having a brotherly relationship, it is no surprise that they tried to push each other, which may have eventually led to their separation.

Lakers Kobe Bryant bumps chests with Shaquille O’Neal after O’Neal got fouled scoring in the first half during the First Round of the Western Conference Playoffs at Staples Center Sunday April 21, 2002.Trailblazer Damon Stoudamire looks on from the left. Lakers won 95–87. (Photo by Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

But they had only praise for each other in front of everyone’s eyes. One such moment came when Kobe Bryant presented Shaq with an award.

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Shaq calls Kobe Bryant the GOAT

After winning the championship in 2001, Shaquille received an award nomination. Unsurprisingly, he went on to win and his dear friend, the ‘Mamba,’ came on to present the award to him. This is where the respect between the two greats came out in the best way.

While Kobe spoke about Shaq he called him the most dominant player in the world. Moreover, Bryant also admitted that Shaq was the most powerful human being he had ever played with. And that he was glad it didn’t work out for him in Orlando.

After exchanging a brotherly hug, Shaq took the mic and spoke about his little brother with the biggest praise one could have. Shaq said: “I would not accept this award unless the greatest player in basketball gave me the award. I said it once before that Kobe Bryant was the greatest player in the game and I meant that when I said that.”

This goes to show how much the duo admired each other on the court and off the court. They shared a true bond and their success was proof of it. However, how well did Kobe play for Shaq to call him the greatest in the 2001 season.

The 2000-2001 season

The Lakers wrapped up their back-to-back championship run with a 4-1 win in the finals. A 21 YO Kobe along with Shaq solidified themselves as one of the best duos in the NBA.

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But what made Kobe a GOAT in Shaq’s eyes?

Lakers Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal sit on the bench with foul trouble against the Timberwolves in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals at Staples Center Monday. (Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

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One main thing was his skill. Bryant was equally dominant in the playoffs that season. Coming off a stellar regular season, he averaged 29.4 points and 7 rebounds in the playoffs. But what was more important was his attitude.

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Shaq knew that Kobe had great potential. Hence, despite being just 21 at the time, O’Neal admitted that Kobe was the greatest basketball player.

WATCH THIS STORY: Tiger Woods, Novak Djokovic & Other Athletes That Expressed How Much Kobe Bryant Meant to Them

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Anuj Talwalkar

376 articles

Anuj Talwalkar is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. He is a student studying at NM College in Mumbai, aspiring to pursue sports management to follow his love for sports. Anuj started following the NBA last year, and he loves to combine his passion for writing with his understanding of basketball.

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