Kobe Bryant grew tired of Shaquille O’Neal’s antics, according to former Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach Phil Jackson.
The big man’s clowning became such an annoyance that the coach claims it played a central role in the breakup of L.A.’s dynasty team. For The Win recently attended a panel discussion that featured Jackson talking about his glory days in the NBA. At that panel, Jackson also shed some light on the differences between his stints with the Chicago Bulls and the Lakers.
With the Bulls, the coach had superstar players like Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. During his talk he compared the work ethics of the leaders on both teams.
“Shaq didn’t work at it,” Jackson said. “Michael was able to succeed despite all kinds of limitations in his game. He couldn’t hit an outside shot. He couldn’t defend. But all of that went away because of his work ethic. Kobe saw that as a pinnacle that he had to reach, and he took it to a whole new level.”
The coach added that Shaq seemed to know he had a kind of clown role to play and he was happy to do so. After the team won three straight NBA titles, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal had a rather famous falling out and it appears that Phil Jackson believes it was simply a matter of personalities that clashed.
Complex Sports points out that while clownish behavior from O’Neal definitely annoyed Bryant, the fact that the center waited until the season was about to start in 2002 to have irked Bryant more. The star center famous opined that since he had suffered the injury on company time, he should wait to get treatment until he was on company time.
More than a few teammates didn’t agree with that, but Kobe was one of the most vocal. There might have been some simmering tension between the two before that incident but it certainly boiled over at the beginning of that season.
“I think the wedge between (Shaq and Kobe) was when Shaq opted not to get an operation until right before the season when he could have had it right after the season,” Jackson said during his appearance at the panel “That resulted in not allowing us to win four (championships) in a row in Kobe’s mind.”
No matter what the cause of the rift was, the Lakers’ haven’t been the same dominating franchise since the split of the superstars. As Kobe Bryant sees the end of his career drawing near, it’s likely he’ll look back on that time with regret.