It's still weird for '90s-era NBA fans to hear Shaq extolling the virtues of Kobe Bryant, but that's the new reality these days after a reconciliation many Lakers fans never thought possible. On Sunday, that trend continued when Shaq recorded his podcast The Big and the conversation touched on the Big 3 league.
Notwithstanding Big 3 co-founder Ice Cube and his quixotic belief Bryant will join the 3-on-3 retirement league—despite rejecting repeated overtures by rapper—Shaq gets to the heart of why the newly-40-year-old Kobe will never go the route of former NBA all-stars Allen Iverson, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Chauncey Billups, who have all participated since the league launched.
“He will never go to the Big 3 before he does the NBA," Shaq said before launching into an intriguing proposition for Lakers fans: "Everybody knows who Kobe is. You’re telling me Kobe can’t give somebody a nice 15 to 20 minutes a game?"
The sheer audacity of Kobe coming back matches the pathological competitor characterization he's worked so hard to further. And Shaq is right when he talks about how monumental a spectacle it would be, even if it's just so Kobe can play a few minutes a night.
"If he came back at 40 then the announcement would be the biggest sports announcement in history," Shaq says. "Everybody would be talking about it. He wouldn’t even need to play great, just come play 15 to 20 minutes a game as a Laker...and if they happen to do well, it would probably be one of the greatest stories in NBA history. And Kobe likes stuff like that, that’s all I’m saying.”
Kobe does like stuff like that—he put up 50 shots in his final game—but he's already appeared to put the kibosh on any possible return to the court in the NBA, or elsewhere. Still, Shaq knows Kobe pretty well. And it's worth noting we were all convinced Kobe's idol, Michael Jordan, was done after hitting the pull-up over Byron Russell to beat the Jazz in Game 6 of the 1998 Finals. But we all know how that turned out, even Kobe.
A month ago Vanessa Bryant wrote of her husband on Instagram: "Kobe will not be coming out of retirement to play again. He doesn't want to play again and frankly we really enjoy spending time together as a family without the crazy game schedule interfering with birthdays, holidays and special events."