Most basketball fans know that Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were not the best of friends. Even in the course of winning three NBA championships together with the Los Angeles Lakers, the two were not strangers to jabbing one another in the media and struggling to co-exist as teammates.
But as a new oral history compiled by Bleacher Report's Ric Bucher reveals, Shaq and Kobe weren't just tumultuous -- they were at times explosive, even to the point of violent threats. This relationship helped pave the way for Shaq's exit after the 2004 season, when he joined the Miami Heat.
Lakers PR man John Black said in the oral history that the two worked well together on the court, rarely having problems. Off the court, however, they were oil and vinegar -- always at risk of boiling over.
Sometimes, that's exactly what happened.
"It didn't become confrontational more than two or three times over the eight years," said Black. "When Kobe gave the statement to [reporter] Jim Gray where he went off calling Shaq fat and lazy, that was one of the times. There was one really bad one, early on. [Lakers teammate] Brian Shaw had to pull them apart. Shaq threatened to murder Kobe."
Shaq also said in that oral history that, despite his struggles with Kobe, he would have stayed with the Lakers forever if not for then-teammate Karl Malone's career-ending injury.
That doesn't mean that he and Kobe could have dominated the NBA for a solid decade, though. Kobe said that things were bad enough that he was determined to split from O'Neal -- even if doing so meant leaving the Lakers.
"Things he had said, criticism from the media in saying I can't win without him. Look, I put that individual s--t aside to win championships and now I'm getting criticized for it," Kobe said. "Now I'm going to show you f--ks what I can do on my own.
"So that challenge, I was going to answer that challenge no matter what—whether I was going to stay in L.A. or go somewhere else, I was going to answer that challenge."