The last time Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal shared a court as teammates was the 2004 NBA Finals, which their Lakers squad lost to Detroit to set up Shaq’s Miami departure amidst just a wee bit of made-for-Hollywood drama.
Only a small bite of pretext there, right? Fast-forward to Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009 in Phoenix, as Kobe and Shaq were front and center in a Western Conference re-union at the NBA’s 2009 All-Star Game, with who else but Phil Jackson manning the bench.
Forty-eight minutes later, after 44 combined points, seven assists and nine rebounds in a 146-119 West win, Kobe and Shaq found themselves together at mid-court holding up the game’s MVP trophy.
Funny how that worked out.
“It felt like old times,” said Shaq, who had 17 points and five boards despite playing only 11 minutes. “I miss those times. He was really looking for me, especially when we went to a pick-and-roll.
“Kobe is the best player in the league. He has been the best player in the league … He even let me take the trophy home today for my boys, so I appreciate him for that.”
Kobe, who finished with a game-high 27 points with four boards, steals and assists, liked Shaq’s pregame dance moves as much as his on-court performance.
“That size moving and all that … it was an A-plus. On the court he obviously played extremely well, running the floor.”
Perhaps predictably, Kobe opted against waxing nostalgic on the issue, but Phil didn’t mind…
“I think it is a great life lesson for people,” he said. “This is something that the people work together, people find a way to get through situations, find harmony in their life, find co-habitation. I hope this speaks volumes not just for our community in basketball but our world community too.”
Life lessons or not, Bryant and O’Neal became the third and fourth players in the game’s history to win at least three All-Star game MVPs, joining Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan, both of whom were decent at hoops. It’ll take one more for either to tie the clubhouse leader, Bob Pettit, who won four between 1956 and 1962.
For now, the lasting image of this All-Star weekend will surely be that of Kobe and Shaq, together again … With another trophy.
In related news…
There is some intrigue behind how the vote was awarded and why Kobe and Shaq split the honor. The media accounts for 75 percent of the total vote, which in this case was nine out of 12 votes. The final three votes came as a result of fan voting, with the top vote-getter earning two points and the runner-up getting a point. Alas, Shaq won the media vote 5-4 over Kobe, while Bryant claimed the fan vote as O’Neal finished second (2-1 Kobe). That gave both players six votes in an almost comical twist of fate.
Kobe, Shaq Climb up All-Star Scoring List
With his 27 points, Bryant moved into seventh place on the All-Star career scoring list with 207 points. Coming in just behind him is Shaq, who now has 202 points. The all-time leader? You guessed it: Michael Jordan (262). Bryant also crept closer to Jordan on the steals chart, snatching four to get to 30 total, seven behind Jordan’s record.