Championship teams in the NBA don’t get along all the time despite the excellent results they achieve. Former Los Angeles Lakers champion Rick Fox said that some of the “ungraceful communication” between his teammates – specifically superstars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal – was a key component of their success.
Fox said the Lakers were “obsessed with challenging each other” and everyone on the roster was expected to put forth his maximum effort.
“It’s why you saw so much of the challenge between Shaq and Kobe,” the NBA icon told the U.S. Sun.
“You saw so much of the challenge amongst even the rest of the supporting cast. We pushed the big guys, Shaq and Kobe, just as hard as they pushed us.
“I think the important thing that made us great is that we allowed for ungraceful communication to exist in our team environment as long as it was [so] we were pushing each other to the best version of ourselves individually and collectively.
“And so at times, it looked was looking like we were feuding amongst ourselves or fighting, but what we were really doing was demanding nothing but excellence from each other.”
Fox was part of the Lakers’ three-peat from 2000 to 2002. He played seven seasons for Los Angeles, arriving for the 1997-98 season and finishing his NBA career with the 2003-04 campaign. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill product played his first six NBA seasons with the Boston Celtics.
Having played for three of the most successful teams in basketball history – the Tar Heels in college and then professionally with the Celtics and Lakers – Fox undoubtedly was familiar with all different types of team dynamics.
But those Lakers teams under head coach Phil Jackson were unique, with the sometimes contentious relationship between Bryant and O’Neal at times overshadowing the play on the court. Derek Fisher and Robert Horry were among the other important players of that era.
The recipe ultimately worked, however, with the three championships won and a fourth trip to the NBA Finals in 2004. After that loss to the Detroit Pistons, O’Neal moved on to the Miami Heat, and Fox did not play in the league again.
Bryant remained in Los Angeles and added two more championships to his legacy in 2009 and 2010.
The current Lakers have a unique dynamic of their own, with LeBron James leading the way as a 38-year-old in his 21st NBA season. The superstar maybe has had some difficult conversations with his teammates at times, but his influence has been felt by current players such as Rui Hachimura and former teammates like Stanley Johnson.
James’ presence and methods have paid off for the Lakers with an NBA championship in 2020 and trip to the 2023 Western Conference Finals. He is on a quest to do whatever it takes to bring another banner to the storied franchise.