With three games left in his illustrious career, Kobe Bryant’s time in the NBA has been heavily analyzed and celebrated since he announced his impending retirement last fall. As fate would have it, the recent Nick Young–D’Angelo Russell debacle has dominated headlines, almost overshadowing Bryant’s final games. Russell’s decision to film Young admitting to infidelity was seen as disloyal and betrayal in the eyes of many pro athletes, with his own Lakers teammates shunning him at one point.
This isn’t the first time the topic of betrayal has come up with the Lakers franchise. Back in 2003, Kobe Bryant was arrested on sexual assault charges and during his questioning, told police that his then teammate Shaquille O’Neal, who was married, would pay women upwards of $1 million to keep them quiet in those sort of situations. Both men had a very strong disdain for each other that was highly publicized, and Kobe’s implication of O’Neal’s infidelity to law enforcement did not make it any better.
Apparently, many other NBA players looked down on the incident and that might have contributed to major free agents not wanting to play in Los Angeles at the time.
Sam Amick of USA Today:
“Sam Amick of USA Today wrote “Years later, after the case against him was dropped and a civil suit was settled out of court with no admission of guilt from Bryant, agents of prominent NBA players would still cite the O’Neal subplot as the sort of sin that inspired their clients to steer clear of Laker Land”
It is well documented that Bryant’s unwavering goal to win at all costs contributed to him being abrasive and confrontational with teammates that did not share his ideals (cc: Dwight Howard), therefore the incident with O’Neal didn’t help his cause. Through it all, his methods have earned him five NBA Championships, a league MVP trophy and countless other accolades that make him one of the greatest basketball players of all time.