The continued thawing of the relationship between Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal has been a boon to basketball fans in the off-days of the summer. And as the two have publicly made up, their appreciation for each other as basketball players has come to the front.
They’ve recognized that had they put ego aside, they could have won more titles. But that’s in the past. Now, O’Neal is letting people know that Bryant’s future should include playing in the NBA for as long as possible. The Hall of Famer spoke to John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune and reminisced on his career ending too abruptly, warning Bryant against the same:
"If you still got something, you should go because once it’s done you can’t get it back," O’Neal said. "If I hadn’t got hurt, I would have went on and played my last season to try and break Wilt Chamberlain’s scoring record.
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"But it’s different for a guard because they got control — ‘I’m going to shoot this time.’ For big guys, it is kind of hard. You’ve got to labor down."
O’Neal finished 2,823 points shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s career regular season scoring total (31,419); for perspective on his "quest" to match Chamberlain, he scored 3,142 total points from the 2007-08 season until his retirement after the 2010-11 campaign. The most points he scored in a single season? It was 2,377 in his second year in the league.
Yet O’Neal rightfully points out that he was injured by that point in his career. And therein lies the similarity between the center and Bryant. Whether Bryant is capable of considering O’Neal’s advice will depend on his status at the end of another season of grinding out games. It will help that the Lakers are reportedly looking to rest their aging star as much as possible.
It comes down to O’Neal’s qualifier. If Bryant still has something left in the tank after 2015-16, it’d be hard to hang it up.