Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal always had a complicated relationship to say the least. Of course, everything looked fine when the team succeeded, but their opposite personalities and characters made things quite difficult when they weren’t on the winning side of the scoreboard.
Their feud went on for ages, and up to this date, they continue to take slight shots at each other, but there’s a lot of respect between the two of them after they combined to win 3 NBA Championships with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Still, we believe this duo could’ve given way more joys for Lakers fans had they found a way to stay together, and basketball history would’ve been a lot different by now if they’ve managed to do so for sure.
Those Lakers were unstoppable, just like the Golden State Warriors have been over the past couple of seasons, and naturally, people can’t help but to make some comparisons between the Dubs and this kind of squads.
Steve Kerr has already inked his name in basketball history after recording a 73-9 regular season, the winningest campaign any team has enjoyed throughout NBA history, so they make a strong case for the best team in the history of the game.
But, what if those two teams had actually faced each other during their primes? Who would’ve gotten the last laugh? Today, we’re going to try and imagine exactly that, taking some of the Kobe and Shaq’s best teammates to face this year’s mighty Golden State Warriors.
Team Kobe & Shaq
PG: Derek Fisher
Fisher never flashed you with anything spectacular, but he always knew how to make the right play at the right time, find the open teammate, take care of the ball and slow down the pace of the game.
Also, Derek Fisher was always a three-point specialist, a major factor considering defenses have to focus a lot on Shaq in the low post and he’s likely to have a lot of open shots because the helpers won’t let Kobe get any easy baskets either.
SG: Kobe Bryant
The team’s captain takes the floor at the shooting guard spot ready to prove that he’s got what it takes to demolish the Warriors with his terrific lockdown defense and his offensive outbursts as well.
Bryant could score from anywhere on the floor and played twice as good whenever he was facing top-tier competition, such as this Golden State Warriors, so you know fans are in for a treat with this matchup.
SF: Rick Fox
Rick Fox was a terrific offensive complement for Kobe, as he could either connect on a lot of pull-ups when the defense focused on Bryant, or just hit on catch and shoots following Kobe’s drives to the basket.
Fox had a sweet scoring touch from three-point territory and was deadly on mid-range jump shots as well, although obviously he didn’t log much field goal attempts with both Bryant and Shaq on board.
PF: Robert Horry
If you need a great stopper, you’d be thrilled to have Robert Horry on your team, perhaps the most underrated defensive forward in the history of the game and a key element in 7 NBA Championships.
Horry was a lockdown defender and perennial DPOY candidate, but he was also a very reliable and consistent scorer from beyond the arc, although he was never forced to take many shots throughout his career.
C: Shaquille O’Neal
Obviously, the main guy down low for this squad has to be The Big Diesel, the most dominant big man this game has ever seen, and a player that’s just going to bully his way to the rim and draw a lot of fouls on his way.
O’Neal was simply unstoppable on offense due to his building-like physique combined with great skills, agility, post moves and footwork, and he was no candy on the defensive end either, averaging over 2.3 blocks per game throughout his career.
Bench: Ron Harper, Glen Rice, Brian Shaw, John Salley, AC Green
Well, this team’s second unit features a lot of veteran leadership and more than capable ball handlers and stoppers, something that’s obviously going to take a toll on this game’s tempo when Golden State’s bench is on the floor.
Even an old AC Green would be a great presence down low to try and prevent McGee from getting open fast break dunks, especially paired with John Salley, a terrific frontcourt defender as well.
If you,re looking for a guy that’s not afraid to hog shots and lead the second unit in scoring, you’d definitely have to put the rock in Glen Rice’s hands, while both Ron Harper and Brian Shaw would handle the playmaking duties and share the backcourt.
Golden State Warriors
PG: Stephen Curry
Coach Kerr obviously will give the rock to Stephen Curry, a two time MVP and the smoothest, most skilled shooter this game has ever seen, and the ultimate owner of pretty much every single three-point related record in the league.
Curry’s handles are incredible, his layup package seems never-ending and even though he’s a huge defensive liability, he makes up for it with his lights out shooting and crafty playmaking ability.
SG: Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson is by far the most underrated player on this team despite having the kind of skill set to be any team’s go-to-guy. His pure shooting ability is top-notch and he’s also the best backcourt defender on this team.
Thompson is deadly between screens, has great lateral quickness, can spot up or just catch and shoot with his quick release, and he has virtually no weak shooting spots all over the hardwood, so good luck trying to slow him down.
SF: Kevin Durant
If it wasn’t enough, coach Kerr can also rely on the best shooting big man this game has ever seen, a player so skilled for his height that looks more like an oversized guard than a combo forward.
Also, Durant’s tall enough to even play at the 5 and allow this team to spread a lot the court with 5 shooters at the same time without being a defensive liability, as he’s surged as one of the league’s top-tier rim protectors.
PF: Draymond Green
Draymond Green is this team’s X-factor, the most versatile defender in the league and one of the few players that could try and take either Shaq or Kobe out of the game by getting into his mind with his fierce trash talk.
Besides, being a hard-nosed competitor, he’s a lockdown defender and can guard all 5 spots, run the team’s offense, lead the break and even score the occasional three-point shot with defenses focused on Curry, Thompson and Durant.
C: Zaza Pachulia
Zaza Pachulia has one job and one job only with this squad: be the team’s bully and do their dirty work, racking up fouls and trying to be a defensive factor below the rim despite his lack of awareness.
Obviously, Pachulia’s this team’s lone liability and that’s one of the main reasons why he doesn’t spend much time on the court, but he’s still found a way to be a factor with his dirty plays to try and injure the opposition.
Bench: Shaun Livingston, Nick Young, JaVale McGee, Andre Iguodala, Omri Casspi
This team’s second unit features a lot of balance and obviously, some deadly sharpshootings such as Omri Casspi and Nick Young that thrive under a system that consists mostly on sharing the wealth and finding the open man.
When it comes to playmaking, the team can always count on Shaun Livingston, who’s also quite a versatile defender that can guard all to three spots on the court due to his length, although the team’s defensive leader has to be by far Andre Iguodala.
Also, believe it or not, JaVale McGee has actually been pretty productive and valuable for this team, as he runs the court really well for a big man and has developed a lot of offensive chemistry with the guards, constantly putting defenders on a poster following a lob.
Ok, we’re talking about an NBA 2k kind of team here if we take a look at the Golden State Warriors roster, but they’ve have actually struggled against teams that don’t allow them to run and push up the pace, something that was one of this Lakers team greatest specialties.
As a matter of fact, we’re just going to go ahead and quote Kobe on this kind of matter:
"I don't think you guys really understand how much we controlled paced and tempo," Bryant says of critics who argued the Lakers couldn't keep up today. "Because with [Shaq] down there, the game stops. You can't go anywhere. Because the defense has gotta come down and get you, which stops them from running out. There's nothing you can do. There's no long rebounds, none of that going on. The game is always chopped up because you're always drawing fouls all the time."
Naturally, the Dubs have the upper hand when it comes to the offensive firepower and they would obviously try to just outshoot the Lakers into submission, but with Kobe and Horry taking up Curry and Durant respectively and Shaq making Green get into foul trouble, it would have to be Thompson doing most of the damage for Golden State.
Kobe would never back down on a challenge like this one and considering how much he embraces competitiveness, we could definitely expect something like a 45 point, 7 rebounds, 7 dimes kind of performance from the Black Mamba.
Also, the Dubs have struggled against strong big men throughout the entire campaign and there’s absolutely no way in hell neither McGee (a Shaqtin A Fool MVP) or Pachulia are going to be slightly able to contain him down low.
Having said that, we just got to give it to the old school on this one, with Team Kobe & Shaq controlling the pace of this matchup and taking home a 110-105 victory behind Shaq’s 40 points, 20 boards and 5 blocks.