Lakers Moments: Bryant and O'Neal win some and lose some
Two are better than one: Lakers players Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal during a game against the Pacers at Staples Center on March 1, 2002.
When Bryant and O’Neal joined the Lakers, the two quickly morphed into one of the most lethal scoring and defensive combinations in the league. Together, with Coach Phil Jackson guiding them, they led the Lakers to three consecutive championships (2000-2002) as Bryant began to cement his place as the game’s top player.
Despite their coming together to win some of the most closely fought playoff series in Lakers history, friction started to develop between Bryant and O’Neal. Tension between the two stars continued to build during the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons as the Lakers failed to capitalize on their status as top contenders for the NBA title.
After the Lakers lost to Detroit in the NBA Finals despite a star-studded roster that included Karl Malone and Gary Payton, O’Neal was traded to Miami and Jackson’s coaching contract was not renewed. As the team’s undisputed leader, Bryant signed a seven-year contract to remain with the team.
Bryant summed up the tensions between him and O’Neal after the Lakers won the NBA title in 2009: "We're great as individuals, but ... it's probably the first dynamic duo that had two alpha males on one team. We managed to make it work for three championships."
Read more about Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal in All Things Lakers, the L.A. Times interactive database of all things purple and gold.
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-- Austin Knoblauch and Sarah Ardalani
Photo credit: Los Angeles Times