The notorious “Kobe vs Shaq” feud has been challenged in the past few days after the pair insisted there are no hard feelings between one another. Still, the upbringing of their little rivalry has caused some reflection within the community.
And if one thing has become clear, it’s that just because the former teammates have buried their metaphorical hatchet, does not mean it was always that way.
Looking back, there are plenty of times where the disconnect between Bryant and his superstar big-man teammate seeped onto the hardwood. Take the 2004 Finals, for example.
The dominant duo lost 4-1 to the Pistons that year, marking the last time Shaq and the Mamba would ever be teammates. While the Pistons’ performance cannot be discredited, one former player actually blames Kobe for the series loss that year, holding to the fact that #8 wanted to win Finals MVP over Shaq, who had won the previous three during their three-peat run just two years earlier.
Interviewed a Kobe teammate for my upcoming book. We talked about 2004 Finals loss to Pistons. Much blame was placed on Karl Malone injury. Guy told me, “That loss was on Kobe. He wanted to be MVP of that series, and he just … kept … shooting.”
— Jeff Pearlman (@jeffpearlman) August 28, 2019
Interestingly, Bryant had Los Angeles’ highest usage percentage (30.4%) but made just 38% of his shots and 17% of his 3-pointers. He was shooting, and misfiring, at an alarmingly high rate.
It is also important to remember that this series marked the height of the tension between Shaq and Kobe. With this, it honestly seems difficult to think that they even made it as far as they did.
So is Bryant to blame for the 2004 Finals loss and, consequently, the breakup of his union with Shaq? You be the judge, but there is likely more to this story than meets the eye.