http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/st ... 0316&num=0
Biggie or Tupac? You choose.
Who do we blame here? More importantly -- whose side are you on?
East Coast or West Coast? Lyricist or Poet? Ready To Die or Strictly For My ...? The beef they created between each other has become legendary. Both represented everything that hip-hop was supposed to be about. They used to be friends. They died as something totally different.
Kobe or Shaq? You choose.
East or West? Baller or Banger? Lakers or Heat? The beef they've created between each other has become legendary. Both represent everything that basketball is supposed to be about. They used to be teammates. They'll end their careers as something totally different.
March 17: Episode III. On Thursday night, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant will face each other for the second time since "the divorce" (or the third time, counting the All-Star Game). What used to be the best story about basketball has now become the best story in basketball ... which has nothing to do with basketball. It has become a saga of Bush/Moore proportions, one that makes 50 and The Game's beef look vegetarian, one that has an impact on a generation much like that of two hungry, young, gifted MCs who came into the game to prove they had skills and prove that they belonged and wound up changing the world.
Theirs is a story that really isn't one, this Kobe and Shaq tale. They played together for six years. Half the time together they won chips, the other half they didn't. At times, they loved each other; at times, they didn't. The "B" in the NBA stands for business: trades happen; free agency occurs when contracts expire; coaches retire. We the media made a story out of this. We the media will continue to do so. The angle: a severed friendship. "It'll be better than 'Tilt,'" a producer will scream to an announcer, an editor to a reporter. A real-life soap opera. Too bad Mark Burnett didn't think of it first.
They will say nothing to each other. Kobe might make an attempt to holla, Shaq will make an attempt not to hear it. "General Hospital" material. But what makes the Shaq/Kobe dynamic die-namic is not what doesn't exist anymore between them; it's the nature of what has been created. The hatred, the betrayal, the fact that none of us knows whom to blame, the fact that both of them are to blame. "One More Chance" or "Hail Mary"? Can't choose both.
Their success will not be measured this season. It will go beyond. Beyond Thursday, beyond the rematches they'll have next year.
Everyone stepped away from the presents on Christmas to see if the Corvette hit the wall.
And that's what makes this thing so intriguing. The way it's set up (partially because of the media playing the subliminal roles of Vibe and Source in this), Shaquille's and Kobe's careers will partially be defined by the games they play against each other. Think the "SportsCentury" ESPN does on this 10 years from now won't include these games? Think they won't be the centerpiece, the epicenter? Think you won't see my black behind up there, in front of the camera, gray-haired out, glasses, talking about how I was there when "Shaq dunked on Kobe in 2005" or how I remember when "Kobe hit a jumper at the buzzer to beat the Heat in 2006?"
The dramatic element to their meetings will be much deeper than anything Magic and Bird or Wilt and Russell went through, even though the stakes will never be as high. The history of Kobe and Shaq dictates that difference. It's deeper than rings. It will be about fans making a non-basketball choice of whom to root for and whom to root against. The problem is, will we look back at this time then, as we do with Pac and Big, and think, how stupid were we for allowing it to go that far? Why did we let it come to this?
And never having an answer.
Bernie Mac asked the proverbial question of life: Who Ya Wit?
Who are you with? The guy you feel destroyed the Lakers dynasty, or the guy you feel sold the Lakers out? Do you even know who's who?
The fact is, neither Shaq nor Kobe alone is right or wrong in this "Lost" season. Can't blame Kobe for breaking up a dynasty, because veraciously, it wasn't a dynasty anymore. Their last two years as Lakers together, KB8 and S34 won no championships. San An got one through them, and Detroit got one on them. That alone should be reason enough for the world to leave them alone, but they can't leave it alone.
Can't leave alone the fact that the two best – if not greatest – basketball players of this generation couldn't coexist into retirement. Can't get past the fact that they were never going to be Mike and Scottie. Can't comprehend that maybe, just maybe, this move is the best thing that could have happened for both of them. Can't wait for Thursday night, just to see if "the Corvette runs into the brick wall."
"Who Shot Ya?" or "Hit 'Em Up"? Bad Boy or Death Row? Puff or Suge? The reason Pac hated Big was ... what? Claimed Big had him set up, shot and robbed. Claimed Big stole his style. Claimed Big was fake. The reason Big hated Pac? Putting on blast that he slept with his wife. If these are facts, then what do any of these reasons have to do with hip-hop, music, N.Y., L.A., record labels or legions of fans spread worldwide feeling forced to take allegiance with one side or the other?
Nothing. Mr. Wallace and Mr. Shakur's beef was personal.
In the end it's not about the game, it's personal. So, whose side are you on?
"Lead the league in scoring and not make the playoffs" or "Get low on the stats and help an up-and-coming team get a ring?" LA or MIA? Jim Gray or Stephen A.? The reasons Shaq hates Kobe are ... what? Kob wanted to test the free agent market? He was name-dropping to Eagle County cops? He made Phil Jackson leave? If you know the answer, what does that have to do with basketball? The reasons Kob hates Shaq are ... what? He didn't get in shape for two years? He got tired of the "big brother/little brother" comments? Free throws? And if he really does hate him, what does that have to do with basketball?
Nothing. Mr. O'Neal and Mr. Bryant's beef is personal.
If not mythical.
But it makes for great drama, classic theater, Woods vs. Mickelson-like ratings. But not necessarily phenomenal basketball, the same way Big and Pac's drama didn't create unbelievable music – their talent did. Maybe, once Kobe and Shaquille are able to put this behind them (and once we – the media – leave the issue alone), they'll let their games speak the volumes that they've allowed their relationship to speak whenever they have a game to win or lose against each other. Maybe they'll turn their personal war into a basketball one where it might not begin with giving each other dap at center court but it will end that way. Maybe this round will be the beginning of that. Maybe not.
Gotta give 'em credit. Kobe and Shaq are the first ones to make art imitate sports. They've made us choose sides. Pick one. Hate the other. And so deep has this battle, this beef, gotten into the American psyche that which one you choose has become a reflection of the type of person you are. Liking Shaq says something about you; liking Kobe says something else. Just like two deceased MCs who just a few years ago had the world in the palms of their hands. The problem with the Shaq/Kobe scenario is no one knows which one of them is Biggie and which one is Pac.
To me its a great article because Im a big hip hop and NBA fan.[/code]
Talk about any other sports here.