The former Los Angeles Lakers pairing of Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant is considered by many to be one of the best duos in the history of the league.
In the eyes of the legendary center, no other twosome is greater. He’s willing to go as far as to assert that he and Bryant would “demolish any duo” put up against them.
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There have been plenty of other NBA pairs worthy of challenging for the distinction of being the greatest, including Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, to name a few.
But the fact that O’Neal and Bryant led the Purple and Gold to a three-peat, which included a dominant playoff run in 2001, is proof that the 15-time All-Star does present a good argument.
O’Neal joined the Lakers in the 1996 offseason, around the same time that the franchise added Bryant. While O’Neal was already a legitimate superstar at that point, he had to wait a while for Bryant to develop into an elite player.
The 6-foot-6 swingman saw limited action during his rookie campaign, finishing the regular season averaging 15.5 minutes per game. But in his second year, Bryant started seeing more playing time, and despite coming off the bench for Los Angeles, he was voted into the 1998 All-Star Game as a starter.
By the 1999-00 season, Bryant had turned into a formidable star, forming an unstoppable one-two punch with O’Neal. The Lakers won the championship that season, thanks in large part to the big man’s dominance inside the paint.
The 2000-01 campaign saw the duo register arguably its best season together, as both players finished in the NBA’s top four in points per game during the regular season. In addition, the Lakers nearly swept the entire 2001 playoffs, winning every match against their Western Conference opponents before dropping a game to an inspired Philadelphia 76ers squad in the Finals.
While the 2001-02 season saw the Lakers complete their three-peat, O’Neal and Bryant never won another title together after that, with cracks in their relationship possibly to blame. After they came up short of a title in the following two campaigns, their partnership came to an end when O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004.
The former teammates were able to eventually patch things up. Still, people can only imagine how things would have turned out for the two Hall of Famers had they managed to maintain a good relationship in Los Angeles.