NEW YORK (AP) — Kobe Bryant downplayed talk of a reignited feud with Shaquille O’Neal, saying Thursday there is “nothing new” that has been said lately between the former teammates.
Bryant had recently said that if O’Neal had worked harder, they could have won 12 rings together with the Los Angeles Lakers. O’Neal fired back on social media that they could have won more if Bryant had passed him the ball more often.
But Bryant said during a visit to the U.S. Open tennis tournament that the comments don’t mean they are fighting again.
“I think people are making it like we’re going back and forth about it, but there’s nothing to go back and forth about,” Bryant said. “There’s nothing that has been said that hasn’t been said before. It’s nothing new.”
They did win three titles together from 2000-02, but their fractured relationship led the Lakers to trade O’Neal to the Miami Heat in 2004. He won a title there, and Bryant later won two more with the Lakers.
They patched up their relationship later in their careers, sharing MVP honors as Western Conference teammates in the 2009 NBA All-Star Game.
Bryant also won two gold medals playing for the U.S. Olympic team. The Americans are preparing to begin play in the Basketball World Cup with a squad that has far less star power than the teams Bryant was on in 2008 and 2012, but he believes they have enough talent to win.
“We’ve got great players. I think the team gets a little chippy about it because everybody’s kind of writing them off because they don’t have the marquee names,” Bryant said.
“But these young players that are playing on this team will be those marquee names in two or three years and they’re great players in their own right. We’ll be fine.”