Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal shared the world between them; they spent several years as brothers and a few years as enemies, according to media reports. They always disagreed on various things, but one thing they always agreed on was the need for family support.
Shaq, vocal in his love for his mother, stepfather and grandmother, watched his younger brother Kobe go through the wringer in 2003. Two years prior, he had recently married Vanessa, upsetting both of his parents in the process. Everyone saw the sad iconic photo of Kobe with the trophy, and that was the reason behind it.
He also watched Kobe grow in stature and unease as his time with Michael Jordan drew to a close – Jordan was set to retire for the final time. The business decisions didn’t sit well with him and he parted ways with Adidas, a company that believed in him from day one. After a series of adventures with several sneaker brands, Kobe landed a multi-year contract with Nike.
But one controversy that caught the attention of many and caused an uproar was the infamous 2003 scandal. In the biggest celebrity case since OJ Simpson nearly a decade ago, Kobe had to endure physical and mental agony. He went to Colorado to get his knee repaired but returned with a stain on his reputation.
Shaquille O’Neal was appalled when he heard about the Kobe Bryant controversy in 2003
Shaq always knew Kobe was a loyal man; Bryant was the complete opposite of him. He had just married his high school sweetheart; why would he commit adultery? What’s more, committing a crime? Kobe wasn’t that kind of guy, yet he was all over the tabloids.
In his book Shaq Uncut, O’Neal wrote:
“You won’t believe what I just heard. He told me that a nineteen year old girl accused Kobe of rape her in a hotel. I could not believe it. I kept saying, “For real? Are you break me, Jerome? because I never thought Kobe would ever be involved in something like this.
The big man knew Kobe was in pain and immediately wanted to reach out. Whatever he needed – a safe home, away from the media – he was ready to give his young companion. The Great Aristotle had a few epiphanies in his life, but this move he wanted to make was the wisest.
Kobe Bryant hasn’t taken the first step to discuss the incident with his friend – number 34 either.
This is a classic case of “You go first”. Shaq and Kobe wanted to talk about it, but they waited too long for us to talk about it anymore. Each was waiting for the other party to make the first move, and in turn, they lost their footing in their relationship. 2003 saw the Lakers duo play their final season together, and that might have been the final straw.
Kobe needed that support that Shaquille was so willing to offer – if only someone had raised their voice. In fact, Shaquille O’Neal even offered his home to Kobe. He wanted Bryant to know his home was always open for him and his family in case they needed to live in a gated community.
However, Kobe played the situation in typical Kobe fashion – he just carried on as if nothing had happened. He was the most talked about athlete in the United States, but all he had was an extra bodyguard. In fact, he didn’t even acknowledge Shaq’s offer.
The Black Mamba came into existence after all that died down; it was his way of using the negative to make it positive. The Mamba didn’t appeal to anyone with its facade initially, but once people saw it as a way of life, they gave in. The Mamba Mentality is now a legend.
Everything that happened between the dynamic Lakers duo is a fun set of events; they never really hated each other, but media fuel burned that fire. And the one time Kobe needed his Shaq, he didn’t speak, “respecting his privacy.” It’s funny how life works!