Shaquille O’Neal is one of the most dominant players in NBA history. He won four championships, three with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Miami Heat. He was also a 15-time All-Star, a three-time Finals MVP, and a one-time regular season MVP. However, his legacy is often overshadowed by his tumultuous relationship with Kobe Bryant, his former teammate and rival. Many fans and media members believe that O’Neal and Bryant could have won more titles together if they had stayed in L.A., but their egos and personal differences got in the way. They also think that O’Neal left the Lakers in 2004 because of Bryant, who wanted to be the alpha dog of the team. However, in a recent interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, O’Neal revealed that his departure from the Lakers had nothing to do with Bryant, but rather with money. “The reason I got traded, it wasn’t about me and Kobe beef,” O’Neal said. “(It was) because they (the Lakers) wanted me to take less money. I’m not doing that! I got money, I had money. I just should’ve been like ‘alright, I raise you enough. It’s your team now. I know what I’m going to do. I’m still going to do my 28 (points), and 10 (rebounds)’. But I was like ‘Nah, I want $150 (million).’” O’Neal was referring to his contract situation in 2004, when he was entering the final year of his deal with the Lakers. He wanted a max extension from the team, but owner Jerry Buss was reluctant to pay him that much money, considering his age and declining production. Buss also saw Bryant as the future of the franchise and wanted to build around him. As a result, O’Neal demanded a trade and was eventually sent to the Heat for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a first-round pick. O’Neal went on to win another championship with Dwyane Wade in Miami in 2006, while Bryant had to endure some losing seasons before teaming up with Pau Gasol and winning two more titles in 2009 and 2010. O’Neal and Bryant eventually reconciled their differences and became friends before Bryant’s tragic death in 2020. O’Neal said he regrets not winning more championships with Bryant, but he also respects his decision to pursue his own legacy. “I respect him for wanting to be great,” O’Neal said. “He wanted to be great on his own terms.” O’Neal also praised Bryant for being one of the best players ever and for inspiring millions of people around the world. “He’s definitely top three,” O’Neal said. “He’s definitely one of my favorite players ever. He’s definitely one of my favorite people ever.” O’Neal said he still misses Bryant every day and wishes he could talk to him again. “I just wish he was here,” O’Neal said. “I wish I could call him up right now and say ‘Hey man, what you doing?’” Final Thoughts: Shaquille O’Neal sets the record straight on his departure from the Lakers and his relationship with Kobe Bryant The recent interview with Shaquille O’Neal sheds new light on his departure from the Lakers and his relationship with Kobe Bryant. O’Neal’s revelation that his departure had nothing to do with Bryant, but rather with money, puts to rest the long-standing speculation that their personal differences were the main reason for their breakup. It also shows that O’Neal was not willing to take a pay cut, even though he had already made a lot of money and was nearing the end of his career. O’Neal’s regret about not winning more championships with Bryant and his praise for him as one of the best players ever and an inspiration to millions of people, are a testament to their complex but ultimately respectful relationship. O’Neal’s candid and heartfelt comments about Bryant’s death also show the depth of their bond and the pain of his loss. Overall, O’Neal’s interview provides a new perspective on his legacy as a player and a person, and a reminder of the enduring impact of his and Bryant’s rivalry and friendship on the NBA and its fans.