Remember how much Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal hated one another towards the end of their time together with the Lakers? The two talked about it at length during a podcast they did last summer, and even though they can laugh about it now, there was a time when it didn’t seem like they’d ever speak again. Shaq got traded to the Heat in July 2004, and all indications were that Kobe and Shaq would be enemies forever.

Their names are back in the news this week because of the D’Angelo Russell/Nick Young controversy. Much like Russell outed Young’s infidelity by secretly recording a video of him talking about cheating on his fiancée Iggy Azalea, Kobe once told detectives that Shaq used to give “hush money” to women to prevent them from speaking about his extramarital affairs. He reportedly made the stunning revelation during his rape investigation in Eagle, Colo. This clip of Kobe speaking with John Saunders and Stephen A. Smith about it actually reemerged on YouTube yesterday after the news about the Russell/Young scandal started heating up:

On today’s episode of ESPN First Take, Stephen A. and Skip Bayless spent a significant amount of time talking about the Kobe/Shaq feud as it relates to the Russell/Young story. They talked at length about how Kobe’s “hush money” comments fueled the feud. But towards the end of their discussion, Stephen A. told a pretty interesting story about how Shaq apparently went out of his way to help Kobe after he got traded to the Heat, even though the two players were obviously at odds at the time. According to Stephen A., there were some “hardcore cats” in Los Angeles who weren’t happy about Shaq getting traded and wanted to seek some sort of revenge on Kobe. But Shaq intervened and did his part to make sure that that didn’t happen.

Stephen A. talks about what Shaq did in the video above at the 12:25 mark. We’ve also transcribed the story that he told below so that you can read along with it. If what he’s saying here is true, Shaq has clearly played a big role in the well being of many NBA players, including his former foe Kobe.

I’m gonna tell you something right now. You know me. I love me some Kobe Bryant. He’s a good brother, and he’s a good man. He had his issues in the past in terms of his personality. The brother is good people. I love him. But I will always love my brother Shaq. And I’m gonna tell you something. I’m going to tell a story right here on national television, and the cats in L.A. know that I know this.

There was a time when Shaq got traded—you got to remember, he’s not just Shaquille O’Neal, he’s Shaqa Claus, he’s all these different things—and you know how L.A. is. We’re talking about some hardcore cats that want to get at you sometimes. And when Shaq got traded, there were people in Los Angeles that were incredibly devastated at him being gone and wanted to do something to Kobe. Who stepped in? Shaq. ‘Don’t you dare. He’s good people. Stuff happens. This is all part of basketball, and I’m gonna still be here doing everything that I do for the communities, et cetera.’

So even in his moment of disdain for Kobe for being traded to Miami and all this other stuff, he still made sure that everybody understood Kobe Bryant is better than what you give him credit for. ‘Kobe Bryant’s alright, we just got some differences right now. It’s going to all be alright.’ A lesser, more immature, less decent person and player could have sat up there and said, ‘Do what you want to do.’ But Shaq stepped in and stopped it. ‘I am not asking you, I am telling you.’ I know cats in the streets, and I know what was said. I’m not saying they would have done anything, I’m saying that they may have tried. It was Shaquille O’Neal that put a stop to all of that.

He has always, in his own way, watched a whole bunch of dudes’ backs in the NBA. Dudes that find themselves in precarious situations, can get themselves hurt, can get things happen to them because they think they’re more street than they really are. They think they’re rougher than they really are. It’s Shaquille O’Neal, as one of the few individuals in the league with the clout, the cache, the stature to put a stop to that. And he has done so on many occasions for a lot of guys you would never believe need that kind of help.

Kobe is a special brother, and what he has elevated to is an unbelievable story and I love him dearly. But Shaquille O’Neal is one of a kind. You have no idea what he has done for so many people. You’d love him ten times more than you already do if you realized how much he has come to guys’ aids who found themselves letting their mouths get them into trouble, and Shaquille O’Neal has come to the rescue. I’m telling you.

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