Report: Things got so bad, Shaq once wanted to ‘murder’ Kobe

Seven years before LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami to form their Superteam, more than a half-decade before this era of Big Threes, the most successful duo of the early 2000s was joined by a pair of future Hall of Famers to form what some believed would be one of the greatest teams in league history.

Only, that most successful duo was also the league’s most volatile — Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. And after their bid for a four-peat ended at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the 2003 playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers added veterans Gary Payton and Karl Malone as free agents.

Playing for far less than market value, the perennial All-Stars nearing the end of their careers were also playing for their first championship. The expectation was a team that would not only win a championship, but perhaps also make a run at the 1995-96 Bulls’ record 72 regular-season wins.

But according to a new Bleacher Report story, Malone and Payton got an up-close look at the volatile Kobe-Shaq feud before the season ever tipped, and some of it sounds worse than the public ever knew about.

According to the report by Ric Bucher, a rather lengthy oral history, there were plenty of problems which came to light as the season progressed. But one particular section of the account, dealing with the final days of the preseason and building pressure of the coming regular season, shed light on details mostly unknown to the public:

Los Angeles Times NBA columnist Mark Heisler:

John Black, VP of public relations and Lakers point man for all media:

Heisler:

FALLEN IDOLS

Payton:

The end result of the Lakers’ season would be a success by most franchise’s standards. But the five-game loss to the Pistons in the NBA Finals turned out to be the end of the road in purple and gold for Payton, Malone and O’Neal.

Payton:

From Bryant: