LOS ANGELES: Former Los Angeles Lakers team-mates and one-time bitter rivals Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant have buried the hatchet in an online podcast released on Monday (Tuesday in Manila) where both men addressed their long-running feud.
O’Neal and Bryant’s tense relationship was a staple of NBA debate for years during the Lakers successful period of dominance in the early 2000s, when the team won three championships and lost a fourth.
O’Neal eventually moved to the Miami Heat in 2004 while Bryant remained at the Lakers, where he continues to play as his career draws to a close.
In a lengthy discussion on O’Neal’s “The Big Podcast with Shaq”, both men expressed regret at the way their bickering often spilled into public view.
“I just want people to know that I don’t hate you, I know you don’t hate me,” O’Neal, 43, told Bryant on the podcast.
“I call it today a ‘work beef,’ is what we had. I was young, you was young. But then as I look at it, we won three (championships) out of four so I don’t really think a lot was done wrong.
“We had a lot of disagreements, we had a lot of arguments. But I think it fueled us both.”
Bryant, 37, meanwhile said he wished the frequent rows with O’Neal could have been kept private.
“To me, the most important thing is you keep your mouth shut. There’s no need to go to the press. You keep it internal,” Bryant said.
“Having our debates within the press was something I wished would been avoided.”
Bryant also recalled an exchange where he almost came to blows as a 21-year-old with the older, bigger O’Neal.
“And I realized that I probably had a couple of screws loose because I nearly got into a fistfight and I actually was willing to get into a fight with this man,” Bryant said.
“I went home and I was like, ‘Dude, I’ve either got to be the dumbest or the most courageous kid on the face of the Earth.’”
O’Neal said he had actually been left impressed by Bryant’s nerve in standing up to him.
“That just showed me ‘You know what, this kid ain’t going to back down to nobody,” O’Neal said.