Despite an infamous off-court rivalry, Shaquille O’Neal asserts that he and fellow L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant were the greatest basketball pair that the storied NBA franchise has ever seen.
In 1996, two things happened that would re-lift a somewhat-dying Laker organization to titles 13 through 17. A three-peat from 1999-2002 proved why the two gifts that came that year were worth the wait.
When the Lakers signed Shaquille O’Neal to a record six-year $120 million contract, they opened the door to a rebirth in the Laker organization and the ability of stars to sign contracts of that size. At the time of the signing, Shaq was the most dominant force in the league; so dominant the « Hack a Shaq » would be the only way to partly stop the truck.
At 7’1″ 330 pounds, Shaq brooded over his defenders with a larger-than-life dominance; it felt as if he transcended the game.
That offseason, the Lakers also traded away long-time veteran and fan favorite Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for their 13th pick, Kobe Bryant. The greatest heist in trade history, the Lakers no doubt benefited, as Kobe quickly became a household name, scoring champion and MVP. Kobe Bryant has won five titles in his 14-year career with Los Angeles, is first all-time in Laker points and a USA gold medalist. Since Kobe’s second year in the league, he has started in every NBA All-Star Game, winning four All-Star MVPs.
For three title runs, both Shaq and Kobe could be argued as the greatest inside-outside duo in NBA history. Their relationship was symbiotic, as one always opened the game up for the other.
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