The “feud” between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal is as much a part of the mythology of the Lakers three-peat era as any other moment from 2000-02. Although it’s debatable how well Bryant and O’Neal actually got along, both players have admitted that they appreciated each other more after the fact, suggesting that there was at least some level of animosity between the two stars while they were both in Los Angeles.
Isaiah Rider, who played for the Lakers for one season in 2000-01, stoked some of the flames on that fire today. In an episode of the “All The Smoke” podcast with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, Rider said that O’Neal once offered him $10,000 in cash to mix it up with Bryant during practice:
“When I first get to the Lakers, Shaq tells me, ‘If you and Kobe get into it, it’s 10 G’s in the locker … This is three days into practice…I couldn’t believe it, I’m like ‘Man, these boys are crazy, bro’ … But this is my thing: I would’ve been off that team so fast if I laid a hand on that man.”
Rider is likely right about his job security being tenuous with the Lakers. He played in 67 games that season, starting six, but didn’t make the playoff roster and was not brought back. Any issues with Bryant would have earned him a one-way ticket out of town.
But it is quite funny to think of O’Neal keeping $10,000 — in ones, no less — in his locker just in case Rider ever stomached up the courage to get into it with Bryant. That had to take up a lot of space. Apparently, it was a standing offer that Rider never took him up on. Jackson’s response about the specifics of the bet, as in whether he would get $10,000 each time he fought Bryant, is also very much in character.
It is worth considering if this was ever a serious offer. It is easy to imagine O’Neal joking with a teammate to get into it with Bryant, but it is far more difficult to imagine him actually placing a bounty on the young star’s head, let alone having that much cash available in such small denominations.
O’Neal was assuredly a prankster, and he and Bryant definitely had their moments, but this seems a stretch too far.