ESPN: Shaquille O’Neal had a conversation with the Sacramento Bee’s Scott Howard-Cooper, which included some amazing insight about all that bickering with Kobe Bryant back in his Laker days:
I think it was all designed by Phil (Jackson). Because if you think about it, Phil never called us into the office and said, ”Both of you all, shut the (heck) up.” Never did that in four years. He knew that when I read something, I was going to get upset. And he knew Kobe was going to always come out and play hard. So I think it was all done by design.
You think he just wanted to light a fire under you guys?
Yeah. I think that’s exactly what it was. I think it was all done by design. Really. He never called us in a meeting and said, ”Shut up.” And basically, it was never a face-to-face … thing. It was always, he’d say something to you, I’d say something to another guy, I’d say something to you. That’s all it was.
Now that I look back on it, that (stuff) was kind of fun. It really was. It was kind of fun. ”What did he say, what did he say?” I tell people if we would have had a reality show, we’d have had the No. 1 reality show in the world. It was fun. It was actually fun. (Brian) Shaw would be, ”Oh, man, why did you say that?” And then Karl (Malone) would be like, ”Yo, that was (messed) up what you said.” Then we’d try to out-do each other in the game.
But while we were trying to out-do each other, the two best players in the game, we’re out-doing everyone by far.
Writer Roland Lazenby, who has followed just about the entirety of Phil Jackson’s coaching career, has been saying for ages that one must not undersell the notion that Phil Jackson plays a lot of psychological games.
I learned about this interview from Sactown Royalty, which highlighted a different amazing part of the talk, wherein Shaquille O’Neal has no idea who Spencer Hawes is.
Maybe he’s kidding. But I don’t think so.
Hawes is not even a rookie. He was a lottery pick. And he plays O’Neal’s position. I don’t think Hawes and O’Neal have played against each other, however — owing to the schedule, O’Neal’s trade last season, and the two players’ various injuries.