Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal recently had a face-to-face sit-down, where they talked about virtually everything. It was a beautiful thing.
Among all the gold in that chat was one very interesting segment on the Bulls. In the dialogue, Kobe admitted to his old teammate that the rumors about him going to the Bulls back in 2004 were legitimate. But, as things turned out, Shaq was traded to Miami before Kobe got the chance to bounce. Here's the conversation:
Shaq: If you can remember, that summer, we were playing in Hawaii. I think I was trying to get some new money. I had a nice little game in Hawaii, and I ran by the great Jerry Buss, and I was like 'pay me, pay me.' So I kinda new he was upset with that. After the game in the Finals, we lost, we had that team dinner. He came in and he sat by you, and your beautiful wife Vanessa, he didn't say nothing to me. I said to myself, 'uh oh, I'm in trouble.'
So two days later, me and little Shareef and Mimi, we're at the counter, Muholland estate eating Frosted Flakes, and I hear Mitch Kupchak say we will be taking inquiries on Shaq. I just dropped the bowl, like, 'what?' I jumped in the car and I came down here to see Mitch, and the cops were already waiting. 'You can't come in here Shaq.'
Kobe: He had the cops waiting for you, huh?
Shaq: Yeah, cause he knew, cause he knew. I was coming out here to choke his ass. I was gonna choke the air outta Mitch Kupchak.
Kobe: See I didn't get any of that, cause we were looking for homes. We were actually looking for homes in Chicago, researching schools, places to live.
Shaq: So that was true, you were gonna go to the Bulls?
Kobe: Yeah. There was a story in ESPN, I think it was ESPN Magazine, and they asked you a question about me and Penny. And you said we were essentially the same. And I looked at that and said, uh, 'no, we're not.'
Shaq: But I think you took that the wrong way, because of all the misquotes and the bad stuff.
Kobe: I probably did, and I probably used it as motivation too. Saying, listen, if this is the conversation, I don't want this conversation. When I retire, I don't want people to say, 'OK, he only won because of Shaq.' As unfair as that is, Magic never won without Cap, right? Michael never won without Scottie. But here I am, getting stuck with this argument, which is not fair, yet this is the argument people will make, and I'm not OK with that. Therefore, I knew OK, I gotta go.
Shaq: I had actually heard that, but I didn't believe it.
Kobe: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. We were looking for places in Chicago, man, we were flying up there to meet with Reinsdorf and Paxson.
Shaq: You were gonna leave sunny California to go to cold-ass Chicago?
Kobe: Vanessa signed off on moving to out to, Lake Forest, I think it was in Chicago. We went on vacation to Italy, and I got a phone call. Rob Pelinka called me, and he said, 'Shaq just requested a trade.' I was like, 'well there goes Chicago, because there was no way the Lakers are gonna lose me and Shaq in the same year.'
Kobe was right, it wasn't fair. It wasn't fair for his legacy to take a hit playing with Shaq. It wasn't fair for him to be attatched with that argument. It wasn't fair that so much of the blame from the drama was pinned on him. And Kobe, as much as he loved Los Angeles, was willing to leave it all if it meant he could prove everyone wrong.
But isn't it interesting how different things could have been? Had Shaq not requested a trade (or had he never had a beef with Kobe in the first place), there's no telling what might've hapened. Everything was in place for Kobe to be traded to Chicago... until it suddenly wasn't. Life has a funny way of doing that to us sometimes...