It’s been talked about for years in the city of Los Angeles. Who is to blame for the feud between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant? Was it Kobe’s ego? Believing that he should be the number one offensive option because of his tireless work ethic and unrivaled drive to be the best player in the NBA? Was is Shaquille O’Neal’s ego? Believing that despite whatever shortcomings he may have had in the work ethic department, he was still hands down the best center in the NBA (not named Hakeem Olajuwan of course) over the last 2 decades and the Lakers wouldnt sniff the NBA Finals without his prescence?
Well, for Lakers forward, Robert Horry, who told Russian website, www.sports.ru, by way of our friends at probasketballtalk.com that the true culprit for the much publicized feud between the two superstars was not the fault of the players themselves, but Lakers head coach Phil Jackson:
I think Phil Jackson started that feud. It happened many times that after team practice he would say, “Kobe said this about Shaq, and Shaq said that about Kobe… We couldn’t believe how could that happen, because just the day before we saw them together, jumping on one another. Phil liked it when there was conflict of some sort.
I always tell people; if you look at those championships, you’ll see who were the closest players on the team. Normally those are the guys who are the first to hug each other. And when we were winning, it was always Shaq and Kobe who hugged. I think this will answer your question. Later it was blown out of proportion by the media and both players started doing something that didn’t make sense.”
One would find it a little odd, if not counter-productive, that Jackson would attempt to drive a rift between his two star players. But when you look a little deeper, how farfetched is this? Are we to believe that Jackson is above creating possible tension in the locker room? Jackson has always been known as a coach who could “manage personalities” and get guys who aren’t on the same page to co-exist. With that being said, it doesnt take a rocket scientist to realize that Shaq and Kobe didnt need Phil Jackson to stir the pot, that feud would have inevitably come to a head regardless of Phil’s interjections. Despite Horry’s description of Shaq and Kobe hugging and jumping on one another, one would have to be pretty naive to believe that the genesis of their rift can solely be attributed to Jackson. O’Neal and Bryant were both very headstrong individuals who both wanted to be THE guy. That they would end up clashing at some point was an inevitability. I’m not calling conspiracy theory here. I’m just saying that it would not surprise me if Jackson somehow threw fuel on the Shaq-Kobe fire to further prove to the masses his greatness as a coach by leading a team of ego-driven, dysfunctional players to multiple championships.