Back in 2001, Shaquille O’Neal agreed to accept an award only if Kobe Bryant, “the greatest player in basketball”, presented him with the trophy.
The Kobe Bryant–Shaquille O’Neal pairing was one of the greatest duos the league has ever seen. During their stint with the Los Angeles Lakers, sharing the same locker room, the HOF pairing went on to win 3 straight championships while dominating the association on a nightly basis.
Yes, the two did have a few hiccups, off-the-court. However, when on the hardwood, the icons pushed each other to play to their full potential. With The Mamba being a threat from beyond the mid-range, and The Diesel being a straight-up bully in the paint, the two developed an insane synergy and complemented each other’s games.
While Kobe and Shaq did bring the best out of each other, they would very seldom speak about their on-court relationship in public. However, there was one time when the duo displayed their utmost respect for each other.
“Shaquille O’Neal is the most powerful human being I’ve ever played with”: Kobe Bryant while presenting the award
Back in 2001, right after the Lakers won their 2nd consecutive NBA title, Shaq was nominated for a trophy. The only condition O’Neal had was that “the greatest player in basketball” had to present in the award. Sharing a quite wholesome moment, Bryant was on the stage to honor his teammate.
Bryant spoke about Shaq before giving him the award:
“What can I say about Shaquille O’Neal?! From his career, starting in Orlando, you know I’m happy that things went bad (laughs)… I’m a fan just like everybody else. I don’t think you guys understand how hard he dunks the ball… Carried us all the way to a championship. He’s the most powerful human being I’ve ever played with, I’ve ever seen play… The most dominant player in the world. MVP. Most Valuable Player and person, ladies and gentlemen, Shaquille O’Neal.”
As the 7-footer accepted his trophy, he lauded The Black Mamba, calling the then-21-year-old the GOAT. Shaq said:
“I would not accept this award unless the greatest player in basketball gave me the award. And I said it once before that Kobe Bryant was the greatest player in the game and I meant that when I said that.”
Kobe presenting Shaq with an award after the 2001 Lakers championship.
“I would not accept this award unless the greatest player in basketball gave me the award.”
— Kobe Highlights & Motivation (@kobehighlight) March 1, 2022