It’s no secret that former Los Angeles Laker teammates Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal weren’t really on the best of terms towards the end of Shaq’s LA stint.
The pair’s ego was severely out of hand by 2004 — so far that Phil Jackson couldn’t even reign them in — leading to the Lakers trading Shaq to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom before the 2005 NBA season to split the pair up, putting all of their trust in Kobe Bryant.
The situation got so bad at one point, that Kobe and Shaq got into a fight midway through a pickup game during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, and punches were thrown according to Kobe, who appeared on The Jimmy Kimmel Show after his Oscar win.
“Oh, he did (throw the first punch),” Kobe said. “I couldn’t reach him. I saw this big fist … and during the interview, I picked up his hand, I’m looking at the size of his hand and I’m going ‘I must have been the craziest 19-year-old in the world to fight this guy,’ but it is what it is.”
Despite Shaq’s gargantuan size, the young Kobe made made sure he wasn’t going to be intimidated by the All-Star bigman.
“He threw a punch, I had to slip it, and I threw one back. And then everybody jumped in and broke it apart. … At that point, you just gotta say ‘Either you’re going to beat the hell out of me but you’re going to know I’m not going to back down.”
The fight seemed to somewhat light a fire underneath the two, as the very next season the Lakers would win their first of three straight titles and four Finals appearances.