October 31, 2011|Tribune news services
Shaquille O'Neal has detailed, in a new book, elements of his rift with former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant, including details of an argument about Bryant's sexual assault case.
In the book, “Shaq Uncut: My Story,” O'Neal described how the two feuded over a TV interview in which Bryant was critical of O'Neal, according to an excerpt on Deadspin.com. Bryant also later expressed disappointment that O'Neal had not supported him publicly during his sexual assault case.
The book, co-written with respected NBA writer, Jackie MacMullen, shows an inside view of the feud between the two superstars who helped the Lakers return to glory before going their separate ways.
O'Neal was upset that Bryant did an unflattering interview with broadcaster Jim Gray soon after coach Phil Jackson's coaching staff told the players not to spar publicly.
“… So what happens? Immediately after that Kobe runs right out to Jim Gray and does this interview where he lets me have it,” the excerpt in Deadspin reads. “He said I was fat and out of shape. He said I was milking my toe injury for more time off, and the injury wasn't even that serious. (Yeah, right. It only ended my … career.) He said I was ‘lobbying for a contract extension when we have two Hall of Famers playing pretty much for free.’ I'm sitting there watching this interview and I'm gonna explode. Hours earlier we had just promised our coach we'd stop. It was a truce broken. I let the guys know, ‘I'm going to kill him.“’
O'Neal said the situation came to a further head when Bryant complained that after accusations of sexual assault were levied against him in Colorado, O'Neal did not defend him.
“Kobe stands up and goes face-to-face with me and says, ‘You always said you're my big brother, you'd do anything for me, and then this Colorado thing happens and you never even called me,“’ the excerpt reads. “I did call him. … So here we are now, and we find out he really was hurt that we didn't stand behind him. That was something new. I didn't think he gave a rat's (butt) about us either way. ‘Well, I thought you'd publicly support me, at least,' Kobe said. 'You're supposed to be my friend.’
“(Then-teammate) Brian Shaw chimed in with ‘Kobe, why would you think that? Shaq had all these parties and you never showed up for any of them. We invited you to dinner on the road and you didn't come. Shaq invited you to his wedding and you weren't there. Then you got married and didn't invite any of us. And now you are in the middle of this problem, this sensitive situation, and now you want all of us to step up for you. We don't even know you.“’
O'Neal's account said things started to calm down before he told Bryant, “If you ever say anything like what you said to Jim Gray ever again, I will kill you.”
Bryant responded with a shrug and said, “Whatever,” according to the excerpt.
“From that day on, I was done dealing with Kobe,” O'Neal writes.
O’Neal left the Lakers for the Heat after that season, and he goes on in the book about an intense encounter which Riley.
“My ticket out of Miami was punched in mid-February 2008," Shaq says in the book. "There was a lot of tension between Pat and the players. So we're about to start practice and Jason Williams comes in about ten seconds late. Pat being Pat, he starts swearing at him and screaming, ‘Get the hell out of here!’...
I tell Pat we're a team and we need to stick together, not throw guys out of the gym. Pat is screaming at me and says if I don't like it, then I should get the hell out of practice, too.
"That's when I said, 'Why don't you make me?'"
From there, Shaq writes, he and Riley got into a face-to-face confrontation as several Heat players tried to break them up.
“I finally turn around and tell (Alonzo Mourning), ‘Don't worry, I'm not going to hit the man. Do you think I'm crazy?"
The book hits shelves on Nov. 15 and can also be ordered on Amazon.