The relationship between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal deteriorated quickly after the Los Angeles Lakers won three-straight championships at the turn of the century. There are a variety of reasons that happened, and it’s always a bonus when we get to hear Phil Jackson’s take on the subject.
While speaking at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston on Friday, Jackson said that Shaq’s work ethic and lack of commitment ultimately led to the downfall between him and Kobe.
“Shaq didn’t work at it,” Jackson said. “It was too easy. He was too big and it was too easy for him. He had his clown role that he had to play. That’s a wonderful role for him.
“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. That resulted in not allowing us to win four (championships) in a row in Kobe’s mind.”
The surgery Jackson was referring to happened in 2002, when Shaq waited until just before training camp to have surgery on his injured toe. His explanation was that he got hurt on company time so he would rather heal on company time. Jackson said that Kobe was more like Michael Jordan with the way he worked, so he clashed with Shaq.
“Michael Jordan was a tremendous player who overcame a lot of deficiencies in his game,” Jackson said. “He couldn’t play defense. He couldn’t hit an outside shot. All of those things disappeared with his work ethic. Kobe saw that as a pinnacle that he had to reach and went beyond that, actually.”
Some people believe Jackson is the one who started the rift between Shaq and Kobe, though the things the two stars have said publicly make that seem unlikely. Have you seen Shaq’s Buick commercials and his analysis on TNT? We all know he loves to mess around. I’m sure that got old for Kobe, who was chasing MJ’s legacy.
Video via CBS Los Angeles