Before the game started.....Shaq went over to Kobe, who was stretching, grabbed his hand and congratulated Kobe on his wife being pregnant with their 2nd child.
A few moments later in the meeting with the team captains, Shaq and Kobe hugged and exchanged pleasantries. Then, at the opening tip....another hug.
So ends The Feud.
The Feud was nothing more than....well....nothing, really. Shaq and Kobe never were the best of friends when they were teammates, but they excelled together. Because they did, they could stomach each other. Lord knows we all have co-workers we could do without...but you gotta make nice to get the job done.
It wasn't that big of an issue when seasons ended with ring ceremonies. Not until a 2nd round defeat to the Spurs....followed by a season ending by the Pistons demolishing the Lakers in 5 games. After that season, Kobe opted out of his contract and Shaq had leverage for a trade. Oh, and Kobe had leverage to trade Shaq as well. The team chose Kobe....and Shaq has been ticked by this ever since.
Again....all that is fine. Shaq has a reason to have some hurt feelings. I mean, thru his entire life...HE has been the man. A beast among men. But, this time, when the chips were down.....someone actually choose the other guy.
Sure, that Christmas 2004 meeting should have had all the trimmings of a heavyweight fight. I mean, this is the first time they've played against each other in an NBA game. There was the "were the Lakers correct in dealing Shaq" questions. There was a buzz that these two could come to blows if Kobe tries to bring it to Shaq during the game [which he tried, but Shaq fouled him pretty hard]. Would they acknowledge each other?? We all know all those answers....and from then on, it should've been a dead issue. But it hasn't. In a game in Miami later in the season....Shaq and Kobe barely made eye contact. And in the Christmas game this season, Shaq went as far as to basically imply that Kobe didn't exist.
What a great defense. In interviews, Shaq would never say Kobe's name....using "you know who" and "the other guy" to drop in some snide comments. Kobe, in interviews, would just deflect it all and tell people that none of it matters. To many, The Feud was mainly alive on Shaq's side.
I don't believe the Love Fest that occured before tip off meant nothing more than just squashing the beef so they didn't have to put on the icy stares. Just like I don't believe The Feud as nothing more than just two guys who don't really see eye to eye. The end of The Feud means nothing more than the fact that these two don't have to deal with this on the scale that it has been over the past 18 months. These two can still hate each other.....well, not be friends.....but they can have the same relationship as, say, Yao Ming and Earl Boykins. None of any consequence.
The key phrase in all this is "move on". We all can. Shaq won't be a Laker again....we can't take the trade back [nor would most Laker fans want to]. For the Lakers, it is about trying to build this team around Kobe Bryant's talents and re-developing a winner. So far, the team has done surprisingly well with Kobe, Odom, a bunch of role guys, a former #1 overall "bust", a NBDLer named Smush, and the youngerst player ever to be drafted. Still, this team isn't that far off from being one of the middle 5 teams in the West....if they aren't already there now.
For Miami and Shaq...it is about taking advantage of the window of opportunity that they have now. Shaq has only a few years left of productive years...and he's got a great youngster developing and some semi-aging stars along for the ride.
Who knows....there is a smidge of a shot that these two guys could see each other in June.