A Look Back At the Shaq and Kobe Breakup in Los Angeles

Published on August 27th, 2022 2:27 pm EST
Written By: Dave Manuel

The Shaq and Kobe feud explained.  In photo:  The one and only Shaquille ONeal. Shaq and Kobe - undoubtedly one of the greatest duos in the history of the NBA.

In the early 2000s, Shaq and Kobe - along with coach Phil Jackson - were absolutely dominating the league.

The Lakers won titles in three consecutive years - 2000, 2001 and 2002, and made a trip to the finals in 2004.

By the summer of 2004, the dynasty was done, as Shaquille O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat after publicly requesting a trade.

Phil Jackson would hit the exits as well, only to return to the team a year later.

What happened? Why did Shaq and Kobe break up?


The Shaq and Kobe feud went all the way back to when Kobe Bryant was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for Vlade Divac.

Despite being a teenager still, Kobe Bryant was immensely confident in himself and declared to anybody that would listen that he would one day lead the NBA in scoring.

Shaq, who has always been sensitive, stressed that it was his team and that Los Angeles was his city.

Kobe struggled in his first few years in the league, and Shaq reportedly was no hesitant to point this out to Kobe.

As the years progressed, Kobe got better and better, and the animosity between Shaq and Kobe continued to grow. Kobe was trying to become the alpha on the team, and Shaq felt as though he was ensconsced in that position. The team, despite their talents, was unable to get over the hump.

The Lakers would take the next step forward after hiring Phil Jackson as their new head coach during the 1999 offseason.

Phil Jackson installed the triangle offense and demanded that Shaq distribute the ball more and get himself into better shape. It worked, as the Lakers would win the first of three straight titles in 2000.

You would have thought that the success would have brought Shaq and Kobe together, but they continued to feud. Some former members of the team have remarked that they couldn't believe the level of animosity that Shaq held towards Kobe.

The 2000-2001 would bring more of the same, though the tensions were ratcheted up a level after Kobe criticized Shaq for arriving at training camp in poor shape. Shaq, on the other hand, would criticize Kobe for playing selfishly and not passing the ball enough.

Things got so heated, in fact, that Shaq requested a trade during this season. The request was obviously not granted, and the Lakers would go on to win their second straight title.

In the 2001-2002, things went pretty smoothly, as the 9/11 attack and various personal tragedies on the team kept things pretty amiable.

The Lakers would win their third straight title, destroying the New Jersey Nets in the finals 4-0.


2002-2003 saw the Lakers struggle, as Shaq missed the first part of the season with a toe injury.

Shaq received some criticism, as he elected not to get his toe operated on earlier in the summer, which would have allowed him to return to action earlier.

Kobe excelled in the 2002-2003 season, though the Lakers would ultimately lose in the playoffs to the Spurs.

Things were pretty smooth between Kobe and Shaq, though things would soon take a nasty turn.


The 2003-2004 season was an absolute trainwreck for the Lakers.

Kobe Bryant was dealing with his rape charges, plus he was recovering from surgery.

Phil Jackson wanted a new contract.

Shaquille O'Neal was looking for a new extension.

Kobe Bryant was soon to be a free agent.

Gary Payton and Karl Malone were brought in to help win a title.

Kobe was mad that Shaq never reached out to check in on him when all of his legal issues were ongoing.

Shaq was mad that Kobe didn't come to his wedding.

Kobe accused Shaq of being out-of-shape at training camp.

An absolute mess.

The Lakers would get smashed by the Detroit Pistons in the finals, and Shaq and Kobe would never play together again.


After the end of the season, Shaq demanded a trade.

Shaq contends that he was told by Jerry West that the Lakers couldn't afford both players, and that they had elected to go with Kobe instead.

Jackson was thought to have feuded constantly with Kobe, and the Lakers elected not to bring Jackson back.

Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat, where he would go on to win a title, while the Lakers would eventually win two more with Kobe.


Kobe and Shaq would continue their feud for years - the feud would include rap songs, public comments and more.

Over the years, however, the animosity between the two would dissipate, and the two would grow close. Kobe would attend Shaq's statue unveiling ceremony in Los Angeles, and Shaq would call Kobe the greatest Laker of all time.

It's a shame that the basketball world couldn't have gotten more of Shaq/Kobe together, as you really wonder how many titles they could have won if they had had a harmonious relationship from the start.

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