They had it all - or so it seemed.
All or nothing, it turned out.
If ever there was a case of two people who didn't know their left feet from their right, two people who didn't know how good they had it on the basketball court, two people who, in the final analysis, got exactly what they deserved, it's the strange case of former teammates-turned-bitter-rivals Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal.
Two of the best players in this or any other era combining to win three straight NBA championships, and yet neither man was satisfied.
Ego nosed out common sense when Bryant and O'Neal went their separate ways after last season.
"Giving" struck out swinging, then left the ballpark in a huff.
You can blame Bryant and O'Neal for messing up the NBA's best duo since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. In time, Kobe and Shaq could have become the greatest 1-2 punch ever.
Instead, they're a punch line.
Kobe and Shaq could go down as two of the most narrow-minded superstars in the history of sports.
Neither man was willing to be the bigger person. By allowing their egos to go unchecked,
Bryant and O'Neal killed the Lakers' dynasty.
Arrogant and dumb. That's the only way I can describe
Bryant's decision to run off coach Phil Jackson while believing he could win championships without the help of anyone, especially O'Neal.
Selfish and greedy. That's the only way I can describe O'Neal's refusal to play for less money than Bryant, while reporting to the Lakers' camp overweight and out of shape.
Bryant hit the roof, blasting O'Neal for not being ready to play.
O'Neal counterpunched, signifying that Bryant's three favorite words are "me, myself, and I."
Bryant and O'Neal were doomed to break up because they couldn't see the bigger picture.
Too often last season, Bryant was in the courtroom, the result of a sexual assault case in Colorado.
Too often, O'Neal was away from the basketball court because of injuries related to poor off-season conditioning.
Given the magnitude of this afternoon's game, the first between O'Neal and Bryant since Shaq joined the Miami Heat, it's important to take stock of their careers as former teammates and their impact on the NBA.
O'Neal may be the most physically dominating center of all time.
He's so massive and quick on his feet, it's frightening. He's what Wilt Chamberlain would have been on steroids.
Bryant is already regarded as one of best shooting guards in league history.
He does everything that Jordan did, except co-exist with famous teammates.
Today's game against his former teammate is a slap in O'Neal's face. When questioned by Colorado police, Bryant blabbed that O'Neal gave hush money to women he dated
outside his marriage.
O'Neal wants to win the game, wreck the rims, and serve up a side order of humble pie to Bryant.
So imagine this: O'Neal going upside Bryant's head, for old time's sake.
Bryant said Christmas Day would be the perfect time to make peace with O'Neal.
Kobe would be better served watching his back. His front too.