Shaquille O’Neal believes Kobe Bryant belongs in the GOAT debate

Shaquille O'Neal Kobe Bryant
Photo: MATT CAMPBELL/Getty Images

Shaquille O’Neal said the late Kobe Bryant should be included in the GOAT debate alongside LeBron James and Michael Jordan.

Bryant and O’Neal were teammates in the Los Angeles Lakers and won three titles together (2000, 2001, 2002). Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash on January 26, claimed two more titles (2009, 2010) and retired as a five-time NBA champion.

“I would think [their mentality] is pretty much equal. I never really spent a lot of time with Mike but, of course, watching him win a championship, watching his demeanor, and watching him wanting the ball at the last second, I would say it’s pretty equal.

And Kobe made a great point: we all look at players before us and we take a little something from them. I wanted to be mean like Patrick Ewing in the post, I wanted to run the floor like David Robinson, I wanted to dominate like Wilt Chamberlain.

The only difference is Kobe was able to have a telephone number and have a relationship with these guys. The rest of us, we just had to see other people emulate other people, and steal what they had. But I’m actually glad they had a relationship.

A lot of people always ask, ‘who’s the greatest player to in the game: Jordan? LeBron?’ I think you must respectfully add Kobe in that conversation,” O’Neal told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.