Three-time champions together, now three-time All-Star MVPs.
And leave it to Shaquille O’Neal to coin a nickname for himself and Kobe Bryant.
“The Big Legendaries,” O’Neal said.
Long ago broken apart, Shaq and Kobe were together again Sunday. Just like the good ol’ days, they were winners — and the only sign of any feuding was when they playfully fought over the MVP trophy they shared.
Bryant led all scorers with 27 points, O’Neal partied his way back onto the All-Star stage with 17 in just 11 minutes, and the Western Conference beat the East 146-119.
“It felt like old times,” O’Neal said. “I miss those times. He was really looking for me, especially when we went to a pick-and-roll and they had Rashard Lewis on me.”
Back on the same team for the first time in nearly five years, they helped the West get untracked after an awful start, then teamed up for a few buckets that helped blow it open in the third quarter.
O’Neal is now complimentary of Bryant, calling him the best player in the NBA. Bryant still seems uncomfortable talking about his relationship with O’Neal — if there is much of one.
“We are not going to go back to the room and watch ‘Steel Magnolias’ or something like that, you know what I’m saying, crying, all that stuff,” Bryant said. “We had a good time. That’s all.”
It was their first time on the floor as teammates since the 2004 NBA finals. O’Neal was traded to Miami that summer, breaking apart a duo that produced three straight titles but was perhaps better known for the bickering that made the breakup inevitable.
“I think it is a great life lesson for people,” said West coach Phil Jackson, who led O’Neal and Bryant to their titles with the Lakers. “This is something that the people work together, people find a way to get through situations, find harmony in their life, find cohabitation.”
Bryant and O’Neal shared a slight hug after being announced as MVPs, then playfully fought over the trophy commissioner David Stern handed to them. They joined Bob Pettit, who won four times, and Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only three-time All-Star MVPs.
LeBron James led the East with 20 points. Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade each scored 18.
O’Neal missed the All-Star game last year after 14 straight selections.