Shaq Versus Kobe (Again)Just when you thought the "Shaq-Kobe feud" was over...
I'm not going to link to Shaq's recent "rap" about Kobe Bryant, Patrick Ewing and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; I'm sure that you either have already seen it or can easily find it if you are so inclined. Isn't it interesting that Shaq dissed Hall of Fame centers Abdul-Jabbar and Ewing but that the media is more interested in reviving the played out "Shaq-Kobe feud" than highlighting Shaq's hypocrisy? This is a guy who repeatedly says that he respects the game's history and yet he never hesitates to trash some of the greatest big men ever. Remember how Shaq tried to manufacture a beef with David Robinson?
The two main reasons that Shaq and Kobe did not get along when they were teammates are: (1) Shaq was jealous of the attention that Kobe got right off of the bat because Shaq is an insecure person who wants to constantly hear people praising him for his greatness; (2) Kobe has a fanatical work ethic and he demands no less of his teammates, while Shaq has a much more laid back attitude, meaning that their approaches are fundamentally incompatible.
Here are a few other points to consider:
1) Neither Shaq nor Kobe was completely flawless during their "feud" when they were teammates but Shaq has consistently been the one who has publicly spoken out. What is the worst thing that Kobe has said about Shaq publicly? He said--after Shaq delayed his toe surgery and came back out of shape during a time when Kobe was stringing together 40 point games--that if Shaq wants to get the ball in the post then he needs to get in shape and run down court because Kobe was not going to slow down to wait for him; Shaq famously responded by saying that if the big dog is not "fed" (the ball) then he won't "guard the house" (play defense in the paint). Note the contrast: Kobe is frustrated at Shaq's lack of conditioning and wants him to--literally--get his butt in gear, while Shaq answers by threatening to not play hard if he does not get his way. Wonder if that sounds vaguely familiar to any Miami Heat fans?
2) Unless you were there or are really, really confident in taking certain Colorado law enforcement officials at their word, you have no idea what Kobe did or did not say about Shaq five years ago. However, in his "rap" Shaq basically brags about having extramarital affairs while saying that Kobe's alleged comments caused Shaq's divorce, which is an odd charge considering the time lag between the two events. Frankly, neither Shaq nor Kobe look like candidates for husband of the year but at least Kobe publicly apologized for his conduct and is not bragging about it.
3) Consider how many people Shaq has befriended to their faces only to later publicly ridicule: Penny Hardaway, Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and, of course, Kobe Bryant.
4a) Shaq should be careful when he brings up the subject of who could "do without" whom. There have been just eight NBA Finals sweeps in six decades but O'Neal was victimized in one of them (1995) and would have suffered a second one in 2004 if Kobe had not hit a game-saving three pointer and then dominated the overtime session in game two. Shaq's teams have been swept out of the playoffs six times (1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2007), which certainly contradicts Shaq's self-serving "Most Dominant Ever" proclamations. The "Most Dominant Ever" can't get even one win in six different playoff series? Shaq has a 1-8 record in his last nine playoff games and, although I certainly don't think that he is primarily responsible for Phoenix' first round ouster this season, it is worth noting that the Suns went further in the playoffs without him the past several years than they did with him this year.
4b) If Shaq had not benefited from having two Hall of Fame coaches and two All-NBA guards then he would have zero rings instead of four. That's not a knock on Shaq per se--every great player needed help to win a championship--but just a reality check: instead of bragging about what a great teammate he is and saying who couldn't "do without" whom, Shaq should act as if he understands how much teamwork really goes into winning a championship and how fortunate he is that he was able to be in those situations during his career.
4c) We all know that Shaq won the Finals MVP each of the three times that Shaq and Kobe led the Lakers to championships. However, one player--no matter how great--cannot win a championship singlehandedly and Shaq could not have "done without" several great performances by Kobe during each of those title runs. For example:
*June 4, 2000: Kobe led the Lakers in scoring (25 points), rebounds (11), assists (7) and blocked shots (four) in their 89-84 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in game seven of the Western Conference Finals.
*June 14, 2000: Kobe scored 28 points in game four of the NBA Finals, including 14 points in the fourth quarter and eight points in overtime. Kobe had the game-winning offensive rebound/put back. Shaq had a big game but he fouled out and it fell upon Kobe to save the day. Afterwards, teammate Derek Fisher said of Kobe, "I was watching what he did tonight and I was thinking about those old NBA classic films, Magic and Kareem and others just taking over games in the Finals. Tonight, he took a chapter right out of their book."
*May 13, 2001: Kobe led the Lakers with game-high totals in points (48) and rebounds (16) in a 119-113 win over the Sacramento Kings in the clinching game of a 4-0 sweep.
*May 19, 2001: In their next game, Kobe led the Lakers with 45 points and had 10 rebounds (one fewer than Shaq) in a 104-90 game one win over the San Antonio Spurs.
*June 8, 2001: After losing game one of the Finals at home, the Lakers needed to win game two to avoid heading back to Philadelphia facing a huge uphill climb. Shaq certainly did his part (28 points, 20 rebounds, nine assists, eight blocked shots) but would the Lakers have won a close game (98-89) without Kobe's 31 points, eight rebounds and six assists? The difference between the Lakers and Sixers was that the Lakers had two stars while the Sixers only had one (Allen Iverson).
*2002 NBA Finals: Kobe averaged 26.8 ppg on .514 field goal shooting plus 5.8 rpg and a team-high 5.3 apg. Yes, Shaq was dominant in the middle (36.3 ppg, 12.3 rpg) but do the Lakers win that series without having two stars playing well? The six times that Shaq has been swept show pretty conclusively that without enough help Shaq can't "do" much in terms of winning playoff series, let alone championships.
5) Many Asian Americans were deeply offended by Shaq's comments about Yao Ming in 2003.
6) While Shaq has backtracked and said that his rap was "all done in fun," the Maricopa County (Arizona) sheriff's office has asked that Shaq give back his special deputy's badge. Sheriff Joe Arpaio said, "I want his two badges back. Because if any one of my deputies did something like this, they're fired. I don't condone this type of racial conduct."
7) I will be very surprised if Kobe does anything other than take the high road and laugh this whole thing off.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:13 PM