ROLLING OUT – The well-documented public feud between former LA Lakers teammates Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant has already gone down as one of the biggest feuds in sports history. But now, in his new memoir, Shaq Uncut: My Story, O’Neal is pulling skeletons — or rather jabs — out of the closet as he details experiences from his tumultuous relationship with his fellow NBA champion.
“So I’m on edge because I don’t have a new deal, and Kobe’s on edge because he might be going to jail, so we’re taking it out on each other. Just before the start of the ‘03-‘04 season the coaching staff called us in and said, ‘No more public sparring or you’ll get fined.’ … Phil [Jackson] was tired of it. Karl Malone and Gary Payton were sick of it … So what happens? Immediately after that Kobe runs right out to Jim Gray and does this interview where he lets me have it. He said I was fat and out of shape. He said I was milking my toe injury for more time off, and the injury wasn’t even that serious. (Yeah, right. It only ended my damn career.) He said I was “lobbying for a contract extension when we have two Hall of Famers playing pretty much for free.” I’m sitting there watching the interview and I’m gonna explode. Hours earlier we had just promised our coach we’d stop. It was a truce broken. I let the guys know, ‘I’m going to kill him,’ ” wrote O’Neal.
When O’Neal finally confronted Bryant, he explains that Bryant revealed that he was angry at O’Neal and the rest of the team because he felt unsupported during his rape scandal.
O’Neal writes, “Kobe stands up and goes face-to-face with me and says, ‘You always said you’re my big brother, you’d do anything for me, and then this Colorado thing happens and you never even called me.’ I did call him … So here we are now, and we find out he really was hurt that we didn’t stand behind him. That was something new. I didn’t think he gave a rat’s a– about us either way. ‘Well, I thought you’d publicly support me, at least,’ Kobe said. ‘You’re supposed to be my friend.’ ”
But according to team member Brian Shaw, Bryant’s sense of loneliness wasn’t due to a lack of care on the team’s end, but instead due to Bryant’s cold and distant attitude toward his teammates.
“Kobe, why would you think that? Shaq had all these parties and you never showed up for any of them. We invited you to dinner on the road and you didn’t come. Shaq invited you to his wedding and you weren’t there. Then you got married and didn’t invite any of us. And now you are in the middle of this problem, this sensitive situation, and now you want all of us to step up for you. We don’t even know you …,” said Shaw.
Having had enough of Bryant’s public disses, O’Neal relayed one final and rather deadly message to his teammate.
“Everyone was starting to calm down when I told Kobe, ‘If you ever say anything like what you said to Jim Gray ever again, I will kill you,’ ” wrote O’Neal.
Well, luckily no one was ever brutally murdered in a fit of rage, but clearly what has died is the chance that Bryant and O’Neal could ever be best buds. Shaq Uncut: My Story hits stores on Nov. 15. –nicholas robinson