But their notorious feud eventually paved the way for the Lakers to trade O'Neal to the Miami Heat in 2004, following their NBA Finals loss to the Detroit Pistons. O'Neal would go on to win one more NBA title in 2006, while Bryant went on to lead the Lakers to back-to-back championships from 2009-2010.
Although O'Neal and Bryant have each given their take on their past tension, they've never sat down together to address it...until now.
Bryant made an appearance on The Big Podcast With Shaq and together they addressed the feud. The podcast is set to broadcast Monday, but ESPN was able to obtain excerpts of the two superstars talking about their intense friction.
"A lot of stuff was said out of the heat of the moment," O'Neal says during the podcast. "I guarantee I don't remember a lot of stuff that they said, because I changed my thought process of, you know what, we won three out of four, what the hell are you all talking about? This is not really even a story."
Bryant expressed regret as well.
"Here's the thing, though. When you say it at the time, you actually mean it, and then when you get older you have more perspective, and you're like holy s***," Bryant said. "I was an idiot when I was a kid.
"To me, the most important thing was really, 'just keep your mouth shut.' You don't need to go to the press with stuff. You keep it internal, and we have our arguments and our disagreements, but I think having our debates within the press was something I wish would've been avoided," he added. "But it did kind of create this whirlwind around us as a team with myself and Shaq and the press and the media that just put so much pressure on us as an organization."
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(Photos from left: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images, Mark Davis/Getty Images)