Who knows how many more championships would have been won had Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. The two were the famous All-Stars that led a dynasty of a three-peat with the Los Angeles Lakers. The run was concluded two years after their final championship together once O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat.
The reason for a trade? Reported beef between the two stars that carried on for years. When Shaq won his fourth championship with the Heat in 2006, he rapped lyrics that made fun of Bryant on the celebratory tour. When Bryant won his fourth and fifth championship with the Lakers years later, the storyline turned back to Bryant being the better player.
It wasn't until a few years after that the two mended fences. Shaq reached out to Bryant and the two had a sitdown broadcasted during All-Star weekend in 2018.
We have seen some other great duos in the NBA that have seen their relationship torn due to miscellaneous factors. These three duos could be the next sitdown we see in the next decade. Well, these three duos need to have a sitdown to clear the air once and for all.
Michael Jordan and Isiah Thomas
There once a theory that Thomas was a conspirator to freeze Jordan out of the 1985 All-Star Game. Jordan, who started as a rookie, scored only seven points and was held to 2-of-9 shooting. However, it's an allegation that Thomas has long since denied.
The rivalry runs thicker than that. The friction between the two started in 1988 when the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons were playoff opponents for the first time. In that season, Jordan was the league MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and All-Star MVP. In the playoffs, the infamous "Bad Boys" Pistons roughed up Jordan, which even featured a punch from Jordan to Bill Laimbeer after he was shoved by the center in Game 3.
The Pistons easily won the series 4-1 and then lost to the Pistons in the conference finals in 1989 and 1990. Once the 1990-1991 season rolled around, the Bulls were the best team in the East, won 61 games, and finally got over the hump of taking down the Pistons. At the end of the final game, the Pistons walked off the court without shaking the hands of the Bulls. It's been a move that has been heavily criticized by Jordan and the rest of the team.
">April 27, 2020
The hate for the Pistons ran deep. Jordan owned up to that, which is believed to be a contributing factor to why Thomas was left off the 1992 Dream Team roster. If two old-school players need to clear out all of their feelings, it's these two. Given Jordan's long-standing hate for Thomas, we will likely never see this happen.
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving
From never going to happen to potentially going to happen, the relationship between LeBron and Kyrie was battered when Irving couldn't handle be labeled as a "Pippen" to Lebron. When LeBron left the Cavaliers, Irving joined the team and was the foundational jewel as the No. 1 overall pick. When LeBron returned to the Cavaliers in 2014, it gave the city hope for their first NBA championship.
Their first year together saw the team rise to the NBA Finals before losing to the Golden State Warriors. In their second season, Irving hit one of the biggest shots in NBA Finals, LeBron recorded the clutches block ever, and the Cavaliers won their first title in franchise history in 2016. In 2017, both LeBron and Irving made it back to the NBA Finals for a third straight season, but it wasn't good enough.
Irving didn't want to be a "little brother" to LeBron. He didn't like that he was living in his shadow, which was why Irving left for the Celtics. It was a perfect case of the wrong mentor for the wrong pupil. LeBron has never openly criticized Irving, while Irving has made subtle shots at LeBron. At one point, Irving said that Kevin Durant, his teammate in Brooklyn, is the first player he has ever trusted to make clutch shots.
">December 8, 2020
It has been reported that Irving would need to apologize to LeBron for him to ever try to repair the relationship. Maybe, a few years down the road, these two can air out their grievances and move on. After all, the two will always be tied to Cleveland.
Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook
The tandem of Durant and Westbrook built the Oklahoma City Thunder up from the ground up. The two were the starting stars of a young Thunder team that made the NBA Finals in 2012. The team contended in the Western Conference for years, including holding a 3-1 edge over a 73-win Golden State Warriors team in 2016.
We all know how the story goes. The Warriors came back to win the next three games before losing the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Durant then left the Thunder to play with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to form a superteam. Westbrook felt betrayed because the Thunder were so close to accomplishing something great on their own, but Durant left to go title chase.
Durant won an NBA Finals MVP in his first season with the Warriors on route to winning his first-ever championship. That made it worse. Both Westbrook and Durant claimed there was no beef between the two. You can call it jealousy or loyalty, but there was a clear strain on their relationship.
">November 23, 2017
Westbrook ended up winning an MVP his first season without Durant, becoming the first player to average a triple-double in a season since Oscar Robertson. He has played with the likes of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony but hasn't been able to get past the second round of the playoffs.
On top of that, Westbrook can't escape the damage. Even with Westbrook was traded to the Houston Rockets, the relationship was frequently brought up by the media.
">December 20, 2019
Westbrook is now with the Washington Wizards and is about to average a triple-double for the fourth time in his career. At 32 years old, Westbrook realistically only has a few more tries at getting to the NBA Finals. Durant is trying to carve a path to the NBA Finals with the Nets, where both Irving and James Harden have joined.
If Westbrook never wins an NBA championship, the two of ever getting back together for pleasantries is unlikely. This would be a must-see event if both players can ever sit down and talk about the split in Oklahoma City.
Credit for idea: Clutch Points