Right before suffering the shoulder injury that ended his season, Bryant met with GQ’s Chuck Klosterman and let it all hang out when asked about his relationship with his former coach, Phil Jackson, and former teammate Shaquille O’Neal.
Bryant said it “infuriated” him when Jackson would call him out in the media and refer to him as selfish, especially because of the contract extension the superstar signed with the Lakers in 1999.
“I could have gone to another team and averaged 35 points a game,” Bryant said. “I could have gone anywhere and destroyed people. I gave that up to win championships. So it was infuriating to hear people say I was selfish.”
As for his relationship with Shaq, Bryant said the two now have a mutual respect for one another.
“To say he was a beast would be an understatement,” Bryant said. “To say I didn’t learn things from him that I still use to this day would be a disservice.”
Bryant acknowledged there were times when he thought O’Neal was lazy but said he now understands it was because the All-Star center was worn out.
“To be fair, I think what happened is that, as you get older, your body starts breaking down, and you have to really love the process in order to get through that,” Bryant said.
Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant watches game action against the Golden State Warriors during the second half at Staples Center on Nov. 16, 2014.
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