August 30, 2015 | 6:11 pm EDT Update
Dwight still will command a $100 million contract or more from someone as the salary cap climbs to dizzying heights. As much as the Rockets might want Howard to sign a short-term deal, they probably have no choice but to pay up to avoid putting him in play.
When he went on O’Neal’s “The Big Podcast with Shaq,” which will be available Monday, Bryant recalled how vicious some of their attacks were against each other. “When you say it at the time, you actually mean it,” Bryant said. “And then when you get older, you have more perspective, you’re like, ‘Holy . . . I was an idiot as a kid.’ To me, the most important thing is you keep your mouth shut. There’s no need to go to the press. You keep it internal. “We have our arguments and our disagreements. But I think . . . having our debates within the press was something I wished would been avoided.”
O’Neal, 43, began the podcast by saying it was “time to clear the air” about their relationship. “I just want people to know that I don’t hate you, I know you don’t hate me. I call it today a ‘work beef,’ is what we had,” said O’Neal, who retired after the 2010-11 season. “I was young, you was young. But then as I look at it, we won three [championships] out of four so I don’t really think a lot was done wrong. So I just wanted to clear the air and let everybody know that, no, I don’t hate you. We had a lot of disagreements, we had a lot of arguments. But I think it fueled us both.”
Bryant was 21 at the time, but he wasn’t going to back down to the 7-foot-1, 330-pound O’Neal. “In ’99, I think Shaq realized that this kid is really competitive and he’s a little crazy,” said Bryant, who is heading into what could be his final NBA season. “And I realized that I probably had a couple of screws loose because I nearly got into a fistfight and I actually was willing to get into a fight with this man. I went home and I was like, ‘Dude, I’ve either got to be the dumbest or the most courageous kid on the face of the Earth.'”
“That just showed me, ‘You know what, this kid ain’t going to back down to nobody,'” O’Neal said. “Kobe seen me punk everybody in the league. So when this kid would stand up every day [to me], I’m like, ‘This kid ain’t going to back down.’ I knew then, if I’m down by one and I kick it out to someone, he’s going to shoot it and he’s going to make it.” Both Bryant and O’Neal laughed. “He was either going to beat the . . . out of me or I was going to get it done,” Bryant said. “I was comfortable with either one.”
O’Neal said Lakers coach Phil Jackson “never” played favorites between the two players. “He was really fair,” O’Neal said. “He only got fed up one time and he came in and said, ‘Both of ya’ll need to cut it out.’ And that’s the only thing he said.”