Clarksville, TN – I was on Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal’s side during the epic and legendary Shaq-Kobe Bryant Wars that were waged earlier this century. The pair formed the greatest duo the NBA had had seen since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were leading the Bulls to six championships in subsequent three-peats in the early and then late 1990’s or certainly since Hulk Hogan and the ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage formed the then WWF’s famed ‘Mega Powers’ tag team in the late 1980’s.
Being apart of Shaq’s Army was cool. And why wouldn’t it be when you’ve got a 7-foot-1, 325-pound general leading the way. No one doubts Shaq is the most dominate center of our time and is hard to argue that he may be the greatest center to ever play the position.
Shaq was the personification of domination and after he left the Orlando Magic to sign with the Lakers in 1996, they then went out and acquired a swift boat in Kobe Bryant in a trade with the then Charlotte Hornets.
The two factions really never saw eye-to-eye early on but you just knew if Bryant would get on board and follow Shaq that the Lakers had everything they needed to return to the ‘Showtime’ days Magic Johnson engineered in the 1980’s.
That happened of course when the Lakers hired the “Zen-Master Commander in Chief” Phil Jackson and his triangle-installed offense that went through Shaq and Kobe in tow went on to win three straight NBA titles.
Usually winning cures everything, but sometimes winning can create bigger and more insurmountable crevasses than any “Zen-Master” can contain and ultimately it led to Shaq leaving and going to Miami and Kobe staying in Tinseltown as the new king.
As a loyal solider, my allegiances followed Shaq to Miami and South Beach and there in spirit I regaled with him as he and his new sidekick DeWayne Wade combined to win the big man’s fourth championship in 2006.
But a funny thing was happening in L.A. as Kobe was reestablishing a new regime and he went on two win two championships in three years and just about got back there last year, until Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks knocked them out in the Western Conference Finals.
At the same time the power that was Shaq was diminishing as he tried to bring championships to Cleveland and then Boston, failing miserably in both before he finally retired and took over the left chair on TNT’s NBA studio show with Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Erine Johnson.
But there was one more battle to be waged, and much like the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812, it came when all major offenses had been halted.
And Kobe got that victory when he passed Shaq for 5th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.
You’d think as a veteran in Shaq’s Army, I’d be one that’s disappointed that Kobe came out as the final victor. But it was so much fun watching Kobe do what he did in bringing his game to the next level and entrenching himself as one of the greatest ever to play in the NBA.
Remember MJ in all his greatness was lucky to have Scottie in both runs, Kobe almost did his with two completely different casts and in a more free-agent friendly era.
So while I love and revere how Shaq brought it in his time and he will go down as one of the most dominant ever, but Kobe has surpassed him in every way.