Basketball is known for its fast paced drama — both on and off the court — and one of the biggest sources has been the rumored feud between basketball greats Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. However, those hoping to see a scene will be disappointed after Bryant claimed on Twitter earlier that this is “no beef” between him and his colleague, despite media reports.
The tweet comes after some back and forth between the two athletes. Earlier this week, Bryant claimed in an interview with Patrick Bet-David that he would have had “12 rings” if Shaq, who played center on the team, had kept in better shape, per The New York Post. Bryant won three NBA championships with Shaq and then an additional two without him.
Bryant added that if O’Neal had his own work ethic, “he’d be the greatest of all time.”
“This guy was a force like I have never seen. It was crazy,” Bryant said.
“Generally guys at that size are a little timid and they don’t want to be tall, they don’t want to be big. Man, this dude, he did not care. He was mean, he was nasty, he was competitive, he was vindictive.”
O’Neal showcased the aforementioned competitive chops when he clapped back at Kobe in two comments on Instagram.
“U woulda had twelve if u passed the ball more especially in the finals against the pistons #facts,” Shaq returned.
“You don’t get statues by not working hard,” he added in a second comment.
O’Neal was referring to a statue of him outside Staples Center in Los Angeles.
After the Instagram post, Shaq began trending on Twitter, which might have prompted Bryant to tweet his insistence of “no beef.”
Despite Bryant’s tweet, rumors of a feud have been around for nearly 25 years. It started when Bryant and O’Neal became teammates on the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996. According to Lakers Nation, the bad blood first reportedly started in 1998 when O’Neal became jealous of Bryant’s jersey sales and accused his teammate of playing “selfish” basketball.
Throughout the years afterward, the two traded barbs. Bryant tended to focus on O’Neal’s shape, while Shaq returned with comments about Bryant’s assault allegations and injuries.
More drama ensued when Shaq demanded to be traded after new coach Mitch Kupchak said he would consider trading the star athlete. O’Neal ultimately went to the Miami Heat. When the Heat and Lakers faced off on Christmas Day in 2004, it was the highest rated game in six years and resulted in Shaq’s victory.
The feud, however, famously came to a head in 2008, when Shaq released a rap that Bryant could not win championships without him, while also blaming the Los Angeles player for ruining his marriage. Shaq later said the rap was “done in fun.”
Bryant’s latest tweet suggests that perhaps the barbs between the two greats were more in jest than previously realized by fans.