But despite that success, Bryant said the pair and the team as a whole underachieved, because O’Neal didn’t train hard enough between games or in the offseason.
Throughout his career, Bryant built a reputation for maintaining an arduous level of training, while criticizing teammates who didn’t try to keep up.
Bryant shared his opinion on O’Neal at the PHP Agency Convention in Las Vegas in an interview that recently surfaced. And although he praised the now-TNT commentator for how he dominated his opponents, Bryant also said O’Neal didn’t maximize his potential.
“Who would Shaq be if he had your work ethic?” asked the interviewer Patrick Bet-David.
“He’d be the greatest of all time,” Bryant answered. “He’d be the first to tell you that. This guy was a force that I have never seen. He was crazy. … I wish he was in the gym, I would’ve had f—ing 12 rings.”
Bet-David then said he didn’t want to cause any tension between the two retired hoopers, and Bryant said it wasn’t something he was worried about.
“I don’t care,” stated Bryant. “Me and Shaq sit down all the time and I say ‘Dude, if your lazy ass was in shape.’ … I tell him all the time.”
When both men were playing for the Lakers, there were often rumors of tension and locker room spats.
There was also that infamous 2003 interview with ESPN when Bryant said, “I don’t miss 15 games because of a toe injury that everybody knows wasn’t that serious in the first place.” At the time, Bryant commented on an injury that plagued O’Neal for much of his stint with the Lakers.
And during his recent Las Vegas interview, Bryant admitted that he and O’Neal would’ve had far less arguments if Shaq would’ve trained harder.
“I don’t deal with people that don’t commit at that level but then act as if they do,” Bryant stated. “A lot of our contention came from that.”
O’Neal responded to the interview on Instagram, and his comments surfaced on Wednesday.
“U woulda had twelve if u passed the ball more especially in the finals against the pistons #facts,” wrote O’Neal. “You don’t get statues by not working hard.”
Bryant responded Wednesday on Twitter and simply called his former teammate the “Most dominant ever.”
“Don’t get it confused. He was still the #MDE,” he wrote.
Bryant then made it clear there aren’t any issues between him and the retired center.
“There is no beef with @SHAQ I know most media want to see it but it ain’t gonna happen. Ain’t nothin but love there and we too old to beef anyway
#3peat,” he tweeted on Thursday.
After O’Neal left the Lakers, he won another championship with the Miami Heat in 2006. And Bryant racked up two more titles with the Lakers in 2009 and 2010. O’Neal and Bryant both retired from the NBA in 2011 and 2016, respectively.