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Kobe says he would have had ‘12 f---ing rings’ if Shaq had gotten his ‘lazy ass’ in shape

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Kobe Bryant didn’t hold back when asked about how good the Lakers could have been if Shaquille O’Neal took a bit better care of his body.

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Lakers Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal congratulate each other during a game against the Trailblaze
Kobe telling Shaq to hit the gym and eat a salad, probably.
Photo by Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Former Los Angeles Lakers stars Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal have one of the most unique relationships in NBA history.

Bryant and O’Neal feuded constantly while with the purple and gold, but still had nearly unparalleled success for the modern NBA together, going to four NBA Finals and winning their first three in a row.

Eventually their relationship was no longer tenable, leading O’Neal to get shipped off to the Miami Heat so that Bryant would re-sign with the Lakers, where he would win two more championships. The pair seem to have mostly publicly reconciled since then, and even attempted to revise history on multiple occasions to suggest their feud wasn’t that bad (it was).

One of the key points of contention between Bryant and O’Neal at the time was how hard (or not) the latter was working. O’Neal is infamous for his policy of getting hurt on company time and healing on company time, and Bryant has spoken multiple times of how annoyed he would get that someone as physically gifted as Shaq wouldn’t work as hard as he did.

Bryant did so again during a recent interview with Patrick Bet-David at the PHP Agency Convention in Las Vegas, where Bryant was asked if Shaq would be remembered differently if he had been blessed with Bryant’s work ethic.

Bryant didn’t hold back (transcript via TMZ):

”He’s be the greatest of all time,” Bryant said ... “He’d be the first to tell you that!”

”I wish he was in the gym! I would’ve had 12 f*cking rings!”

Kobe says he’s not saying anything publicly he hasn’t already said to Shaq in private -- “Me and Shaq sit down all the time and I say, ‘Dude if your lazy ass was in shape ...’”

Bryant would instead finish his career with five rings. That’s one more than Shaq, granted, so Bryant did get the last laugh, but he still ended up one short of Michael Jordan (six rings), six short of Bill Russell (11 rings) and two short of Ariana Grande (seven rings).

And if we put the jokes and the hilariousness of these comments aside for a moment, Bryant also probably has a point. 12 rings is probably exaggerating things, but if he and O’Neal had gotten along better and O’Neal had focused more on staying in shape, it’s not impossible to see them winning at least two to three more titles, if not more than that had O’Neal been able to stay healthy and extend his prime by being more fit.

Remember, Bryant only really entered his prime the year or two after O’Neal left, and O’Neal’s presence on the roster would have been a nightmare for opponents already sweating over how the hell they were supposed to stop Bryant.

Alas, those are just dreams for whenever the NBA does it’s own version of “Marvel’s What If…?I” And all in all, things still worked out pretty well for Bryant and the Lakers, who were able to pair him with Pau Gasol for another really fun duo that fans would (likely) have been deprived of if O’Neal had stayed. Still, it’s hard to blame Bryant for wondering what could have been if one of the most dominant players in NBA history had honed his natural abilities even further.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.