Kobe Bryant was never big on sleeping – he was in the gym at all hours instead – but it turns out he was having completely sleepless nights when Shaquille O’Neal won a title without him before he was able to win one without Shaq.
Shaq wasted little time in winning the 2006 championship with the Miami Heat, not long after he and Kobe went their separate ways. Kobe managed to win two titles without Shaq eventually, but it kept him up at night until he got there, according to former teammate Trevor Ariza.
“It drove him… sleepless nights, I could probably say that,” Ariza said on Club Shay Shay. “He wanted to prove, you know, that he was who he thought he was.”
Kobe’s titles in 2009 and 2010 bolstered his legacy in a major way, as he not only won them without Shaq, but also added two Finals MVPs to his trophy cabinet as well. Shaq won Finals MVP ever year during the Lakers three-peat in the early 2000s.
Kobe’s determination to win championships without Shaq speaks to his competitiveness and rivalry with the legendary big man.
While Kobe and Shaq had a fierce beef during their prime, they quashed it in their later years and often spoke fondly of each other.