Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal will forever be linked together since they were very successful teammates together. The dynamic duo won 3 NBA titles in 4 straight NBA Finals appearances, creating a Lakers Dynasty that will be remembered forever.
But Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant had their beef, as their egos and alpha personalities clashed multiple times ultimately leading to a breakup. Shaq ended up in Miami, where he won an NBA title and had one more than Kobe. That wouldn’t last long since Kobe won two straight titles as the man with the Lakers a few years later. Clearly, they were bitter rivals.
Even as teammates, Shaq and Kobe were often compared and it is time to compare the skillsets of two of the greatest players to ever play the game. While Shaq was a dominant inside player, Kobe did his work from the perimeter. But which player has the greater impact? It’s time to find out.
Scoring – Kobe Bryant
This one is close because Shaq in his prime was simply unstoppable. In fact, he might have had one of the most dominant runs in NBA history. Over his career, Shaq averaged 23.7 PPG on 58.2% FG shooting. O’Neal was a force inside thanks to his size and strength and had a career-high average of 29.7 PPG in 1999-2000. O’Neal was bigger than every player on the court and basically forced his way to the line if he didn’t score with ease. Unfortunately for him, he was a very poor FT shooter and shot 52.7% from the stripe.
But Kobe Bryant was a professional scorer of the higher-order. Perhaps other than Michael Jordan, nobody had a better skillset than Kobe at scoring the ball. He averaged 25.0 PPG for his career, including a career-high 35.4 PPG in the 2005- 2006 season. He even managed to drop 81 points in a single game, and simply could not be stopped when he was on fire and was the master at the mid-range game and on the block.
Athleticism – Shaquille O’Neal
Kobe was clearly a better athlete in terms of speed and vertical, but Shaq’s physical abilities allowed him to impact the game more than Kobe’s. Kobe relied on his skillet to dominate the game, whereas Shaq’s size gave him the edge every single night.
O’Neal literally would flush the ball through the rim at times, overpowering every defender as if they were rag dolls. Nobody had his size, but he was surprisingly quick and explosive for such a large person. O’Neal had the physical ability to completely change the game, and there is no wonder why the rules are changed in Shaq’s favor.
Defense – Kobe Bryant
Shaq was never much of a defender as he got older and truly should have averaged more blocked shots because he was so large. Still, he could be a force on that end in his prime and his presence altered shots because running into Shaq was running into a brick wall.
But Kobe was a better defensive player. He was excellent at playing passing lanes, came up with clutch steals every so often, and made a whopping 12- All-Defensive First Team selections. Kobe could guard three positions and excel at the off-ball defense. Bryant was a better defensive player at his position than Shaq.
Clutch – Kobe Bryant
No question here, Kobe is Mr. Clutch. Even if naysayers bring up his poor shooting percentage, they fail to realize that every single player in history misses more than they miss in crunch time. There is often little time on the clock, multiple defenders draped on him, and very tight situations to get shots off. Still, Kobe has more game-winners than anyone in history and built a reputation of taking and making clutch shots.
Shaq could score anytime he wanted in his prime, but struggled from the free-throw line and avoided going there at all costs. If Shaq had the ball in the clutch, the opposition would foul him and Shaq would almost always split the free throws if not miss both. Bryant’s shot making gives him the edge.
Leadership – Kobe Bryant
Shaq and Kobe were both very vocal and imposing forces on the court, and led through their play and impact. But Kobe was a better leader, mainly because he knew how to work harder than anybody else and set an example for his teammates. While Shaq was a winner and a very competitive player who won 4 NBA titles, he often did not show up in shape and didn’t mind doing things his way. If Shaq got his big paycheck and 20 touches a game, he was fine.
Kobe worked his behind off every single day of his life and dedicated his life to basketball. He held everyone to his standard and managed to win two more NBA titles without Shaq as the leader of the Lakers. Along with Michael Jordan, nobody had a higher standard of work ethic like Kobe Bryant.
Impact – Shaquille O’Neal
This one is difficult to decide. Kobe had the longevity and a better track record of being a dominant player, but Shaq’s impact in his prime can’t be denied. There was no answer for Shaq. He won three Finals MVPs in a row, no matter how good Kobe Bryant was in the Finals. Shaq had astronomical numbers and literally needed three defenders to slow him down.
When Shaq was on the block, everything stops. He controlled the game like no one else and has to be a more impactful player than possibly anybody in history.
1 on 1 Game – Kobe Bryant
Clearly, Kobe could score in any way possible. Shaq was unstoppable one on one but was obviously limited in what he could do because he needed a guard to get him the ball and also put him in position. Kobe just needed the ball, and he could score the ball anytime he wanted. He was known to take over an offense by himself, with the capability of being a one-man offense at all times. This came in his team’s favor as he matured because he knew when to turn this on during the fourth quarter otherwise known as “Kobe Time”.
Shaq was unstoppable one on one in the post, but Kobe’s versatility on offense gives him the edge. Kobe was extremely talented on the block with his footwork and had one of the best post games despite being a slender guard.
Career – Kobe Bryant
Overall, their careers are very close. Many will tend to place Shaq above Kobe on the all-time list, while others prefer Bryant. In the end, what settles this debate is the amount of NBA rings and longevity. Kobe managed to usurp Shaq with one more NBA ring, won as the undisputed leader and best player in the league. Shaq has 4 rings, but Kobe’s 5 meant slightly more considering he was the man for 2 straight titles.
Not to mention, Bryant was a better overall player considering how his versatility allowed him to remain very dominant for so long. Over the span of their career, Kobe made more All-Star teams 18 to Shaq’s 15) than Shaq and more All-NBA Teams (15 to Shaq’s 14). Not to mention, more All-Defensive Teams (12 to Shaq’s 3). In the end, Kobe won one more ring and was arguably the best player in the league from 2004-2010.
Kobe Bryant vs. Shaquille O’Neal 6-2