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Published: Wednesday, 1/24/2001

Ego problems of Bryant, O'Neal nothing new in sports

Los Angeles Lakers teammates Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal are in the midst of a very public, very personal, personality conflict.

After winning their first NBA championship as a tag-team entry last year, Kobe and Shaq have evolved to the point where each player wants the ball in his hands while the other one stands around and watches.

They've both gone on record as saying the Lakers' playbook isn't big enough for the two of them.

Sorry, Phil Jackson. This isn't Chicago, where Scottie Pippen unselfishly deferred to Michael Jordan and the Bulls won six rings. This is the new Generation X NBA, where sharing the limelight doesn't appear to be an option.

There's a precedent for the Kobe-Shaq feud. This is not the first time bickering teammates have engaged in a test of wills with their team's future hanging in the balance.

Bryant and O'Neal join a rather large fraternity of athletes who, driven by ego, fame and fortune, refuse to see eye-to-eye with one another for the good of the team.

Charles Barkley vs. Clyde Drexler and Hakeen Olajuwon (Houston Rockets): Upon being traded to Houston, the Chuckster claimed Drexler and Olajuwon weren't dedicated to producing more championships after the Rockets won back-to-back titles. Despite playing with three of the top 50 players in NBA history, Houston never returned to the finals. Drexler grew weary of the drama and retired.

Jim Jackson vs. Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks): In the early 1990's, Jackson and Kidd were considered the NBA's backcourt of the future. Unfortunately, two of the Mavericks' infamous Three J's (Jamal Mashburn was the third J) never meshed on the court. Kidd wouldn't pass Jackson the ball. The teammates also reportedly butted heads over singer Toni Braxton (a charge Jackson denies to this day). The Three J's never went to the playoffs and dissolved when Jackson, Kidd and Mashburn were all traded.

Joe Montana vs. Steve Young (San Francisco 49ers): Montana resented that coach Bill Walsh planned one day to replace him with Young so vehemently that Montana refused to speak Young's name. When Young was named the starter, Montana forced a trade to Kansas City.

Kevin McHale vs. Larry Bird: McHale was a fun-loving prankster who happened to be one heck of a basketball player. Bird played every game like the world was coming to an end. Bird never understood why McHale didn't share his single-minded passion for winning; he believed McHale squandered his athletic gifts. McHale took a small measure of revenge when he leaked an unflattering story about Bird's declining skills to a New York tabloid late in both players' careers. In spite of their differences, McHale and Bird combined to win three NBA titles.

Reggie Jackson vs. any New York Yankee: Reggie's humongous ego resulted in him being hated by most of his teammates wherever he played. But Jackson wasn't called Mr. October by accident. When Reggie dramatically poled three consecutive homers in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, the Yankees all fought to be the first to congratulate him.

Darryl Strawberry vs. Keith Hernandez: (New York Mets): Hernandez said Strawberry didn't play with full effort. Strawberry suggested that Hernandez mind his own business. Off the field, Strawberry and Hernandez never hit it off. On the field, different story. Hernandez and Strawberry helped to make the Mets one of the best teams in baseball in the 1980s.

John Harris is a Blade sports columnist. E-mail him at jharris@theblade.com.



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