And they didn’t always see eye to eye.
In an interview with retired NBA player Olden Polynice, he told me about the time he had to break the two up during practice.
“They got into a fight,” Polynice told me.
“I was the one who broke it up. I had to grab Shaquille. This dude is too big for me to be holding on to. I tried to tell Kobe at the time, ‘Yo man, back up,’ and he kept coming at him. I’m saying to myself, ‘Either he has a death wish or he doesn’t give a damn.’ After that, I said there’s something different about this kid than a lot of other people. He was not backing down from Shaquille at all.”
So what was this fight over?
“Some crap,” said Polynice.
“‘It’s my team.’ ‘No, it’s my team.’ Seriously, that’s what it came down to. That’s what got the whole thing started. It was crazy. The reason I bring it up is because he had no fear and, to me, that was crazy. I was like, ‘Y’all need to break this up.’ There were punches thrown. All the punches missed. I think I caught more punches than they did. I stepped in there and Shaq grazed me and I wrapped him up and I’m holding on for dear life. Somebody ended up grabbing Kobe and that was it.”
Bryant died on Sunday, January 26, in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, while on his way to a basketball game at his Mamba Academy in Thousand Oaks. Bryant’s daughter, Gianna, and seven other passengers also perished in the crash.
While Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal didn’t always see eye to eye, they made peace over three years ago. “Well, as you know, the last couple months has been really tough,” Shaq said on Tuesday.
I lost my little sister. I haven’t been sleeping. I haven’t been doing the normal things I usually do. I work, we laugh, we kid and we joke. When I get back home and look at reality and see she’s gone, it just hurts. So the other day, I’m downstairs working out with my son Shaqir and my nephew Columbus, and my other nephew comes in crying, and he shows me his phone, and I snapped at him. I said, ‘Man, get that out of my face.’ We live in a world where anything can be photoshopped, anything can be hoaxed. I didn’t want to believe it. And then I got the call from [Ernie Johnson], Charles [Barkley], Kenny [Smith] — everybody called me. And then we found out it was confirmed. I haven’t felt a pain that sharp in a while. [I’m] 47 years old. I lost two grandmothers. I lost a sarge, lost my sister, and now I lost a little brother.
Bryant retired from basketball in 2016. The former 13th overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft by way of Lower Merion High School, he currently ranks fourth on the NBA’s career scoring list with 33,643 points.