"There’s an me in that motherf**ker"- When a young Kobe Bryant gained the respect of $400 million worth Shaquille O'Neal

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers
Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Lakers

Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant had a rocky relationship as teammates with the LA Lakers. However, the two put their differences aside on the court and won three championships in a row. The mutual respect between the two legends was always intact.

It took a while before Kobe earned the respect of the "Big Fella", though. Shaq narrated a hilarious story about the same during Bryant's eulogy in 2020 at the Crypto.com Arena, then known as the Staples Center. Here's what Shaq said (via Bleacher Report):

"The day Kobe gained my respect was when the guys were complaining. They said, 'Shaq, Kobe's not passing the ball.' I said, 'I'll talk to him.' I said, 'Kobe! There's no 'I' in team.' Kobe said, 'I know, but there's an me in that motherf**ker.'"
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Shaquille O'Neal brought the best out of his teammates by being hard on them. Kobe Bryant received the same treatment from him. However, Kobe was among the few who stood up to O'Neal. His winning mentality and unwavering confidence stood out for the latter, which helped them take care of business on the court and become arguably the best duo in NBA history.

The Lakers made four NBA finals appearances in the Shaq and Kobe era that lasted eight years. Those finals trips came in the last five years of their stint as teammates before O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat and the Lakers built around Kobe Bryant. That LA Lakers team was the last side to win three consecutive championships.


Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant came to blows before attaining championship success

Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant's career timelines were drastically different. The former had been in the NBA for four years before Bryant made his debut as a teenager out of high school. Kobe took a while to develop and hit his stride.

O'Neal, meanwhile, was already in his prime but hadn't won a championship. Shaq's frustrations boiled over with the Lakers failing to leave their mark in the playoffs in his first three seasons. Bryant was still struggling to find consistency and maturity in his game. This is something that unsettled O'Neal after three years of patience.

During the 1998-99 lockout, O'Neal and Bryant were on opposite teams during a pickup game. The two jawed at each other until they came to blows. O'Neal kept pushing Kobe's buttons, and the latter wouldn't back down.

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Shaquille O'Neal nearly knocked Kobe Bryant's head off with a straight punch, but the latter ducked. However, Bryant went at him, and the two had to be separated before things got worse.

However, that altercation sparked Kobe's ascension into a superstar. He realized he shared the same drive as his veteran teammate to win a championship, which was pivotal to the LA Lakers' three-peat that followed shortly after.

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Edited by Arhaan Raje
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