The Lakers dynasty of the early 2000s was one of the most impactful eras in NBA history for many reasons. Not only did these teams display exciting on-court excellence, but there was also an underlying current of locker room drama between superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. Although they've since patched things up, things flared up when Kobe's recent comments about Shaq ignited a Twitter feud between the two. On Tuesday, Bryant stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live to explain the remarks.
"I think he did," Kobe said at the interview's 4-minute mark when asked if he thought Shaq took objection to his comments. "But here's the thing: it was really a compliment. People missed the first whole half of that in which I said he was the most dominant player I've ever seen and I felt like he could've been the greatest of all time. So people kind of missed that part of it. They kind of caught on to the 'lazy' part. But I said that kind of like tongue-in-cheek."
The remarks Bryant is referring to came last week during an interview with Patrick Bet-David. Kobe claimed he would have 12 rings if Shaq had a similar work ethic. Shaq then took to social media where he said, "U woulda had twelve if you passed the ball more especially in the finals against the pistons #Facts... You don't get statues by not working hard."
Kobe then clarified his comments on Twitter.
"There is no beef with @SHAQ I know most media want to see it but it ain’t gonna happen," Kobe tweeted. "Ain’t nothin but love there and we too old to beef anyway #3peat." Shaq then showed his affinity for Kobe by using the opportunity to hit Dwight Howard with a stray bullet.
"It’s all good bro," Shaq said. "When I saw the interview, I thought you were talking about Dwite, is that how u spell his name lol."
While their locker room rift is now fuel for jokes, there was a very real power struggle during the Kobe/Shaq era. Bryant's comments prompted a former teammate recount an interesting detail about the Kobe/Shaq relationship. According to Raja Bell—who played with Shaq in Phoenix, Shaq had a secret signal for players who shot the ball too much, which he first introduced to freeze out Kobe.
"But Shaq started saying, 'Hey guys, this is the symbol (twitches thumbs downward). When I give you this, Gordan doesn't get the ball anymore,'" Bell said on an episode of the Kanell and Bell podcast. "And I'm like, 'Dude, what is the background on that...where'd you come up with that?' And he was like, 'When Kobe was young, he would be going in and just trying to get 'em, so the rest of us had a universal kind of code that if we looked at each other and went (gives signal) then that meant Kobe didn't get the ball anymore.'"