Shaquille O'Neal lays down a challenge for Kobe Bryant

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To say Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant have history would be a serious downplay on the once dynamic duo's past.

Two of the biggest and greatest stars in L.A Lakers and, indeed, NBA history did not always see eye to eye. The beef between the two is the stuff of legend, but now that 12 years has passed since they shared the same floor as teammates, the lingering fire between the two has mellowed into a respectful spark.

O'Neal has been retired from the game for five years now and Bryant is in the dying embers of his 20-year-career with 12 games left to play for his beloved L.A Lakers.

On Tuesday night, the Black Mamba battled against Tony Allen of the Memphis Grizzlies for the final time - a man that Bryant has proclaimed to be the toughest defender he's ever faced.

The 37-year-old dropped 20 points on the Grizzlies in a 107-100 win for the purple and yellow and Kobe will be hoping his latest triumph at the Staples Center won't be his last.

O'Neal, who now works as a broadcaster for TNT, made a special request to his old superstar teammate when he caught up with Bryant in a postgame interview.

O'Neal said: "They're doing a big celebration for you for your last game, a lot of us are going to be there; can you promise me one thing?"

"What's up?" Kobe replied.

Shaq asked: "I need 50 [points] that night. Can you do it?"

Bryant erupted into a big belly laugh before concisely responding to the former dominant center's request.

"Uh, no. Absolutely not. Absolutely not, man, but I am looking forward to seeing you, though," Kobe humorously, yet warmly replied.

It's great to see the banter and friendliness easily flowing between two all-time greats. Much of their reported problems during their tenures in California stemmed from two alpha-males striving for greatness and the fact that they delivered three NBA titles is a testament to their abilities.

Bryant has been struggling with a shoulder problem as of late, but managed to start against Memphis after missing the Lakers' previous two outings.

The legendary shooting guard has managed an average of 16.9 points, 4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per outing this term, and those averages are significantly down on his career numbers of 25 points 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

However, the most alarming decline in Kobe's arsenal has been his field goal percentage. He's shooting a career low of 35.6 percent from the field whereas his career average is 44.8 percent.

If Bryant is to have the ultimate swansong and go out against the Utah Jazz on April 14 on the high his career deserves, he'll need better percentages than that.

Can the five-time NBA Champion rise to Shaq's challenge?

L.A. Lakers
Pacific Division
Western Conference
Kobe Bryant

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