Shaq & Kobe: How hatred spawned magic

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24 years ago today, the Orlando Magic selected Shaquille O'Neal with the first overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft and the league was never quite the same again.

Diesel, Superman, Shaq Daddy, The Big Aristotle - whatever you want to call him - is without question one of the greatest big men to ever set foot on the hardwood.

He was the MVP in 2000, a 15-time All-Star, four-time NBA champion and he is one of only three players to win regular season MVP, All-Star game MVP and Finals MVP awards in the same year - the other two being Willis Reed and Michael Jordan.

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Shaq ranks seventh in all-time points scored, fifth in field goals, 13th in rebounds, and seventh in blocks. He took his rightful place in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this summer, but we could wax lyrical all day about how great a player the 7'1" monster was. Instead, we want to revisit one of the most prosperous, but controversial times of his career.

The Kobe and Shaq feud.

It's a relationship that lasted eight years, but most people can't help but focus on the historic three-peat from 1999-2002.

There are countless episodes between this duo, most of which are chronicled by their sneaky, and often not very subtle jabs in the media.

Coach Phil Jackson - a well known Shaq supporter - cited the apparent feud as "juvenile" while Doc Rivers suggested O'Neal's departure in 2004 was the "biggest travesty in sports" because they should have remained teammates and won at least five championships together.

Kobe branded Shaq "fat and out of shape" at the start of the 2000-01 campaign. Shaq freestyled on the Black Mamba in 2008 and rapped "Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes." The stories are endless, but the rivalry always came back to one thing: ego.

Shaq believed the Lakers were his team and he was their leader. He won the MVP award in the 1999-2000 season and was the Finals MVP in all three of the Lakers' title successes in that period.

We skated over O'Neal contributions to the game earlier; there is no denying that he was indeed a truly elite force to be reckoned with. He had career averages of 23.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a night, and many people believe Diesel wasn't even really engaged on the defensive end or the boards like he was scoring.

He was the leader of the Lakers, but Kobe's talents could not be denied. The shooting guard was more than a complementary piece, he was a bona fide franchise player.

It appeared as though Los Angeles wasn't big enough for the both of them and Shaq had become bitter at sharing the spotlight. In fact, he saw Kobe becoming the main man like Penny Hardaway was while he was in Orlando.

As a generation-defining talent, Shaq didn't want to be anything but the main attraction.

But, for all the bitterness and behind the scene dramas that somehow made mainstream press, they were a formidable duo.

Quite easily one of the best on-court pairings the league has ever seen. During that three-year stretch, and even a couple years either side of it, nobody in the league could contain two completely different, but equally potent threats. They were devastating.

Ultimately, Shaq's age and questionable durability are what brought an end to his tenure in L.A. If the Lakers had crumbled to his extreme demands for a contract extension, it would have been the wrong decision.

Shaq went on to prove he didn't need Kobe to win a title when he hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy in 2004 with Miami. However, Kobe would win two more titles alongside Pau Gasol later in his career in what was a much more pleasant union.

It warms the heart to see Kobe and Shaq on such great terms today. Away from the heat of the locker room and the pressure of the grandest stage, the two appear genuine friends with plenty of respect.

Part of the fire that fuelled that feud made Shaq who he was, and the same goes for Kobe. If neither man was built that way, they never would have won the championships that they did. That in itself presents a wonderful paradox to the blueprint of success.

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