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How Kobe Bryant And Shaquille O'Neal Squashed Their Beef On MLK Day

How Kobe Bryant And Shaquille O'Neal Squashed Their Beef On MLK Day

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were one of the most dominant duos in NBA history. When the two players were on the same page, they were unbeatable.

This was proven when the Los Angeles Lakers led by Kobe and Shaq won three consecutive titles from 2000-2002.

The problem with this incredible duo was they often weren't on the same page, and this problem they had with each other would be their undoing.

Kobe And Shaq Dynasty Comes To An End

After the San Antonio Spurs surprised the Lakers by beating them 4-2 in the second round of the 2002-2003 NBA playoffs, Kobe vowed to come back harder than ever.

The Lakers front office agreed, and they went out and signed legends, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. This gave the Lakers the first real “superteam”.

The Lakers made it back to the NBA Finals during the 2003-2004 season and were the heavy favorites against the Detroit Pistons.

The Lakers may have been the favorites, but the7 sure didn't play like it. The Pistons destroyed the Lakers, winning the series easily at 4-1.

A few Lakers' teammates blamed Kobe for the Finals loss because Kobe reportedly wanted to win Finals MVP. So, he kept shooting, even though his shot continued to be off.

After the season, the Lakers front office stated they were open to trading Shaq. This angered Shaq and he demanded a trade.

The Lakers eventually traded Shaq to the Miami Heat, to team up with the young star named Dwyane Wade.

Christmas Day Matchup

In the first season where Kobe and Shaq weren't teammates, fans couldn't wait to see these two face off against each other.

The fans would get that chance on Christmas day, 2004.

The Heat would get the win in an overtime thriller, 104-102, but the big story wouldn't be the actual game, it would be on what happened before they started playing.

As the players came out to the half-court circle to greet each other and line up for the jump ball.

Kobe went directly to Shaq to greet him, but Shaq looked away, clearly, he wanted no part of a reunion.

Shaq blamed Kobe for “kicking him out of LA”, even though there was no proof Kobe had anything to do with the Lakers front office offering Shaq up in trade talks.

At this point in time, it appeared the Kobe-Shaq feud would continue on until the end of time. Then, the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. took over.

The Beef Ends On MLK Day

The Miami Heat were scheduled to play against the Los Angeles Lakers on Martin Luther King Jr. day during the 2005-2006 NBA season.

A few days before the game, Shaq was with the great Bill Russell and Russell told something important to Shaq.

Russell told Shaq he should make peace with Kobe, the same way he did with Wilt Chamberlain. Those two were once friends, then they fell off in a bad way.

The two giants eventually made up and became friendly again. They would talk on the phone at least once a week until the day Chamberlain passed away.

The way Russell made up with Chamberlain before he passed, always made him feel good, and he wanted Shaq to do the same with Kobe.

So, before the game, while Kobe was being stretched by the Lakers athletic trainer, Shaq approached him to shake his hand.

“I had orders from the great Bill Russell,” Shaq explained. “Me and him were talking in Seattle the other day, and he was telling me how rivalries should be. I asked him if he ever disliked anybody he played against, and he told me, 'No, never,' and he told [me] that I should shake Kobe Bryant's hand and let bygones be bygones and bury the hatchet.”

Shaq went on to add the importance of the day of the game:

“Today is a day of peace. Dr. Martin Luther King was an ambassador of peace. So, when I talked to Mr. Russell, he told me him and Chamberlain spoke once or twice a week before he passed away. And even though people thought they hated each other, there was nothing but love there.”

How did Kobe react to Shaq's sudden change of heart? This is what Kobe said:

“It made me feel good. We've been through so many wars together. I think it's good for the city of Los Angeles, good for the NBA, good for the youth, being Martin Luther King Day.”

After that moment, things seemed to be better between the two, and their relationship would truly be repaired during the 2008-2009 NBA All-Star Game.

This marked the first time Kobe and Shaq were teammates since their time together on the Lakers. This occurred since Shaq left the Miami Heat and joined the Phoenix Suns.

The two reportedly amended their relationship, and this newfound love drifted onto the basketball court.

Kobe and Shaq were named co-MVPs of the All-Star Game, with Kobe giving the MVP trophy to Shaq's son, Shareef.

Shaq is thankful he listened to Bill Russell, and so are we, as fans. We are thankful Kobe and Shaq became friendly before Kobe's tragic passing.

When you think back to the early 2000s Lakers, don't think of the Kobe-Shaq “beef”, remember how dominant and fun it was to watch these two in action, as teammates.


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