Kobe on Shaq: ‘I would’ve had [expletive] 12 rings’ if he was in gym

Los Angeles Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal talks with Kobe Bryant during their time as teammates in 2002. (Lucy Nicholson/AP)

In 2015, retired NBA centre Shaquille O’Neal launched the The Big Podcast, where, in its debut episode, he had former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant on as his first guest, introducing Bryant as “the greatest Laker ever.”

This was an apparent extended olive branch stemming from a feud between the two superstars that could be traced back to Bryant’s rookie season and escalated while they won three NBA championships together back-to-back-to-back from 1999-2002.

It’s been about four years since then with O’Neal, as a broadcaster for Turner Sports, consistently praising Bryant in that time — until just recently that is.

Bryant, also retired since the 2015-16 season and perhaps getting a little bored without steady competition, apparently decided to re-fan the flames of his old feud with O’Neal.

In an interview Bryant did with entrepreneur Patrick Bet-David that surfaced Tuesday, Bryant claimed that if had O’Neal worked harder during their playing days the big man would’ve been the greatest player of all time, and Bryant would’ve benefitted greatly from it as well.

“He’d be the greatest of all time,” said Bryant when asked what O’Neal would be if he had Bryant’s work ethic. “This guy was a force like I had never seen. He was crazy. Generally guys at that size are a little timid and they don’t want to be tall, they don’t want to be big. This dude, though, he did not care. He was mean, he was nasty, he was competitive, he was vindictive.

“I wish he was in the gym, I would’ve had [expletive] 12 rings.”

Bryant’s work ethic was the stuff of legend and was always the reported source of the rift between him and O’Neal to begin with, as O’Neal would come into training camp out of shape at times, much to Bryant’s chagrin.

As such, by bringing up the old work ethic narrative, it seems Bryant may be out here trying to stir the pot with O’Neal. O’Neal then jumped back in as well.

To O’Neal’s point here, however, in that 2004 Finals with the Detroit Pistons that saw the Lakers lose the championship series in five games, Bryant shot a dreadful 43-for-113 from the field and 4-for-23 from deep.

But as much fun as re-hashing some old beef might be, both Bryant and O’Neal apparently buried the hatchet before anymore fun speculation could come of it.

O’Neal and once-again Lakers centre Dwight Howard, though? There could be some meat on that bone once again.

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