The Los Angeles Lakers won three consecutive NBA championships between 2000-2002 when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant were teammates. Michael Jordan led his Chicago Bulls to six titles between 1991 and 1998.
If those two teams would have faced each other in their primes, who would’ve won? According to O’Neal, it would’ve been the Lakers all the way, which he said during an interview on ESPN that was published to YouTube on Wednesday.
“Of course, yes, easily [we would have beaten the Bulls],” said O’Neal around the 18:00-minute mark. “’Cause I would’ve killed Luc Longley, Bill Wennington, [Bill] Cartwright. The factor is me and my free throw shooting.”
“I still would average like 28, 29, but the key would’ve been free throws,” he added. “With me it’s always 50-50. If I would’ve been on we win. If I would’ve been off we lose … But I can strictly say I think we would’ve beat them.”
A debate about which team would’ve won broke out in the YouTube comments once the interview surfaced, with many saying the Bulls and Jordan had the advantage.
“Shaq is an all time great enough player to be able to pick himself in a series with Michael Jordan but with that being said, I got Jordan,” read one of the comments.
“Pippen would lock young Kobe and Rodman would lock Shaq. Jordan would destroy them,” someone else stated.
O’Neal also started another debate when he talked about a different hypothetical game.
It was in January of this year when he stopped by “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and was asked if he and Kobe would have beaten the current Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis in a game of two-on-two during their prime.
“Do I think or do I know?” answered O’Neal. “The answer is yes, hell yes. There’s only one contributing factor: Who’s going to guard me?”
Later that same month, on Jan. 26, Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter accident in Calabasas, Calif.
O’Neal, who played with Bryant on the Lakers from 1996-2004, was one of the speakers at his memorial service, which took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 24.
One of the things he talked about was the reported tension he and Bryant had as teammates. There was a lot of talk during those years that both players wanted to be the Lakers’ main guy, considering they were both franchise players.
“Sometimes, like immature kids, we argued, we fought, we bantered or insulted each other with offhand remarks,” O’Neal explained. “But make no mistake, even when folks thought we were on bad terms, when the cameras were turned off, he and I would throw a wink at each other and say, ‘Let’s go whup some ass.'”