Kyrie Irving asked Kobe Bryant about his relationship with Shaq to avoid same problems with LeBron James
Ever since notoriously challenging Kobe Bryant to a game of one-on-one during a Team USA workout, Kyrie Irving has had an Anakin Skywalker-to-Yoda type of relationship with The Black Mamba, soaking in every bit of the wisdom he’s acquired through his illustrious 20 years in the league.
So it came as no surprise that the young Padawan once asked Vino about his relationship with former superstar Shaquille O’Neal, whom he won three NBA championships with — in efforts to avoid a similarly ugly breakup with the alpha male of his team, LeBron James.
“It’s a tough balance,” Irving told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “Because everyone knows, Shaq was really dominant and (had) a lot of the individual accolades… unbelievable. And that’s who he was. And Kobe was just consistently working on his game and consistently trying to prove everyone all the time. And you got to commend somebody for that.”
“That just shows the true testament of their will and what they’re willing to do and what they’re willing to sacrifice, but I know I don’t want to look back and say that I let my selfishness get in the way of us winning championships, because we have unbelievable talent on this team and unbelievable players, and so I don’t want to ever take that for granted.”
Kobe spent his first eight seasons playing alongside Shaq and together they conquered heights that weren’t reached since the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls in the 90s, but their relationship took an ugly turn in the later years when both players insisted on being the top dog in the purple and gold, ultimately resulting on O’Neal’s exile from the team, being shipped out to the Miami Heat in the summer of 2004 following a 4-1 NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons.
James, who has played alongside O’Neal during the 2009-10 season in Cleveland and in numerous All-Star games — has seven years of age over Irving, just like the Diesel had on Bryant, but admitted his relationship with Irving was more of a mentorship than a competition.
“First of all, I don’t know how Kobe and Shaq managed their partnership. All I can know, from the outside looking in, (is) that it didn’t work out,” said James. “For me, I see Kyrie growing every single day and wanting to be great. And so me, I just try to give him the blueprint, as much as I can.
“You know, his experiences, he’s going to learn on his own as well, and that’s what he should do, but all I can do is give him the blueprint, and that’s it. Because he’s going to be around a lot longer than me.”