Sports reporter Jim Gray has covered the NFL, MLB, golf, boxing, and the Olympics. He also covered the NBA throughout the 1990s and the early 2000s, being present at big moments like the Malice at the Palace, one of the most infamous fights in NBA history.
Gray went on Stephen Jackson's All The Smoke podcast, the very player who climbed over Gray in Detroit to join Metta World Peace in a fight with fans. Alongside fellow host and former NBA player Matt Barnes, Jackson asked what it was like for the man, regarded as one of the greatest sportscasters of all time, to interview two NBA players who are also considered the best of all time, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant.
Jim Gray explained that Shaq was a funny guy to be around and just an expressive, big personality. The Emmy award-winning broadcaster went on to explain that this was somewhat the root of Shaq and Kobe’s feud while playing together.
“They each felt that it was their team, and obviously Phil Jackson was involved in this. Shaq was a much more sensitive guy, so Kobe got beaten up upon and it took a toll on Kobe and it set him back.”
The two fought privately with their fists in a 1998-99 training scrimmage but also publicly through the media. Gray was put in the middle of the conflict, refusing to run a quote that Kobe gave him during an interview, Bryant stated,
“The guy selling donuts at the 7-11 had more pride in his job than Shaq did.”
Thankfully Gray took a stand pointing out that not only did Kobe have to work with Shaq and Phil Jackson but that he himself did and didn’t want to hurt his relationship with the two as a reporter. Obviously, Phil Jackson played a large role in the two super-stars parting ways with each other, developing a toxic locker-room culture of competition and ego.
Jim Gray covered a number of great athletes throughout his career, from Muhammad Ali to Tom Brady. He recently released a book on the subject, Talking to GOATs: The Moments You Remember and the Stories You Never Heard.