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Shaquille O’Neal threatened to ‘murder’ Kobe Bryant during 2003-04 season

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It’s long been known that despite all the on-court successes the two enjoyed as Los Angeles Lakers teammates, the relationship between Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant was tenuous at best, contentious at worst.

In a comprehensive and fascinating oral history put together by Bleacher Report NBA senior writer Ric Bucher, the combustible alliance between the two superstars once devolved into threats of homicidal tendencies.

In Bucher’s “An Oral History of the 2003-2004 Los Angeles Lakers, the First Super Team” — a stacked squad highlighted by Bryant, O’Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton, among others — Lakers vice president of public relations John Black recalls an incident where O’Neal essentially threatened to murder Bryant.

“Mostly it was Shaq and Kobe didn’t like each other, but it didn’t affect them on the court,” Black tells Bucher. “They would say something about the other, on or off the record, but it didn’t become confrontational more than two or three times over the eight years. When Kobe gave the statement to Jim Gray where he went off calling Shaq fat and lazy, that was one of the times. There was one really bad one, early on. Brian Shaw had to pull them apart. Shaq threatened to murder Kobe.”

The quote in question by Bryant from the Gray interview in 2003 (via Sporting News):

GRAY: Shaq says that you have not been a team player. Is he right?

BRYANT: That’s ridiculous. I have been successfully sacrificing my game for years for Shaq. That’s what Phil [Jackson] wanted me to do, so I did it. Last year Phil told me Shaq was not in physical condition to carry the trust of our offense, so he asked me to do it. But then he saw Shaq was getting upset that the team wasn’t running through him, so Phil asked me to pull back and I did. This year is no different; my role is whatever Phil wants it to be. Period.

Bryant’s run-ins with players on that team weren’t limited to O’Neal, but Karl Malone as well.

Malone insists he Bryant still has a “standing offer” to “knuckle-up” with him to this day. The supposed rift stems from some unsavory comments about “hunting little Mexican girls” Malone made to Bryant’s wife Vanessa while attending a Lakers game during the 2004-05 season when he was no longer with the team.

Quite the bit of bad blood for a so-called “Super Team,” huh?

(image credit: Laker Nation)