How was this rift between teammates allowed to go on like this? According to Shaq's interview with the Sacramento Bee, Phil Jackson was at least partially responsible.
"I think it was all designed by Phil. Because if you think about it, Phil never called us into the office and said, ''Both of you all, shut the hell up.'' Never did that in four years. He knew that when I read something, I was going to get upset. And he knew Kobe was going to always come out and play hard. So I think it was all done by design ... But while we were trying to out-do each other, the two best players in the game, we're out-doing everyone by far."
Shaq basically believes that by not making more of an effort to squash the beef between his two star players, Phil Jackson essentially encouraged it to happen, in an effort to keep his team fired up and avoid complacency.
Far be it from me to question the Zen Master, a coach with 9 championship rings. But one has to wonder if perhaps that could have been 10 or 11 rings, if he had known when to draw the line. The proverbial fire that he kept lit under Shaq and Kobe produced great dividends. But what if there had been a way to salvage their friendship and keep them together in LA? Instead of winning another title in Miami with Dwyane Wade, Shaq may have won another in LA with Kobe, and Phil Jackson would have the same problem as Bill Russell; too many rings, not enough fingers.
Is it a definite that a different approach could have brought more success to the Lakers? We'll never know. In his last year with the Lakers, Shaq saw the team lose badly to the Pistons in the NBA Finals, Perhaps that was a bigger reason for his departure than a simple feud with his superstar teammate. But what if Phil Jackson had done things a little differently and somehow managed to keep both players in LA? W'll always wonder.
Shaquille O'Neal: My Fights With Kobe Bryant Were Orchestrated by Phil Jackson [SacBee] Via [True Hoop]