In Focus: Kobe Bryant feuds
By Colin Becht
Kobe Bryant and Lakers’ big men just can’t seem to get along. First Shaquille O’Neal, and now, reportedly, Dwight Howard. SI.com looks back at Bryant’s greatest feuds.
Shaquille O’Neal: Three NBA titles couldn’t keep the lid on this epic feud. Beginning with Bryant’s rookie season in 1996, and continuing throughout both players’ careers, the two traded barbs, often through the media. Following a disappointing 2002-03 season in which the Lakers were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals, Bryant questioned O’Neal’s leadership ability and said O’Neal was “blaming others for our team’s failure.” O’Neal was traded to the Heat a year later.
Chris Mihm: The talent currently in Los Angeles brought back memories for Kobe of less talented supporting squads, specifically the Lakers’ 2005-06 roster that included Brian Cook, Smush Parker and Chris Mihm. “I’m taking 45 shots a game. What was I supposed to do, pass the ball in to Chris Mihm? Chris Mihm?” Bryant said during training camp in October. Of Parker, Bryant said: “Smush Parker was the worst. He shouldn’t have been in the NBA, but we were too cheap to pay for a point guard. We let him walk on.”
Kwame Brown: Bryant hasn’t spared former No. 1 pick Kwame Brown, who left the Lakers as part of a trade package for Pau Gasol, from public criticisms. In 2011, Bryant shared a story of Brown’s last game with the Lakers, when Brown told Bryant not to pass him the ball even if he was open underneath the hoop because he was “nervous.” “If I catch it and they foul me, I won’t make the free throws,” Brown reportedly said. In Bryant’s riff on his 2005-06 team, which also included Brown, he said of the 6-11 center, “I don’t know how he convinced Philadelphia to cough up $7 million a year. They want to lock us out, but they’ll pay him $7 million.”
Andrew Bynum: After the Lakers traded Bynum as part of the deal to land Dwight Howard, Bryant seemed to ignore the loss of his seven-year teammate. “We got Pau [Gasol] for virtually nothing, so history does repeat itself,” Bryant said of the trade.
Pau Gasol: Bryant and Gasol reportedly feuded in the 2010-11 season, with things coming to a head during the 2011 conference semifinals when the Mavericks swept the Lakers. The New York Post cited sources that said Bryant and Gasol had suffered a complete falling out. The two remain teammates to this day.
Dwight Howard: The honeymoon for Bryant and Howard came to a quick end with a report in the New York Daily News that Howard had to be restrained from going after Bryant after the two engaged in a heated exchange following the Lakers’ New Year’s Day loss to the 76ers. The altercation between the two reportedly included Bryant’s mentioning Shaquille O’Neal’s critiques of Howard as a soft player. Howard has complained to the media about the Lakers’ lack of chemistry, a criticism possibly targeted at Bryant. (Bryant has since denied that an altercation took place.)