Shaquille O’Neal and the late Kobe Bryant formed one of the most dominant tandems the NBA had ever seen. They were superb teammates who became fierce rivals and eventually legends of the game. The LA Lakers icons also shared a bond that lasted far beyond their playing careers.
O’Neal shared a post on his Instagram account showing an extremely unusual photo of Bryant and his father, Joe Bryant, watching a football game in Italy. The photo shows the father and son dressed in winter clothes and braving the biting cold to enjoy the sport that Italians are passionate about.
By now, Bryant’s well-told story is one most basketball fans know. “The Black Mamba” moved in with his father when he was still 6 years old while the eldest Bryant pursued his basketball career in the Old Country.
From age 6 to 13, Bryant immersed himself in Italian culture and football and eventually became fluent in Italian. His athletic gifts also allowed him to play the ‘beautiful game’ which eventually ended with Bryant playing for local youth team, Cantine Riunite.
In a 2006 interview with Luis Arroyave of the Chicago Tribune, the Hall of Famer pointed out that he was not extraordinary at football. While he started as a goalkeeper, he was later asked to play in midfield as he got better with ball control, dribbling and passing.
He didn’t become manic in his pursuit of basketball until he returned to his homeland. However, those early childhood days playing European football certainly helped his footwork. O’Neal, back when he was a teammate and opponent, was very impressed with Bryant’s technical display on the basketball court.
Bryant’s ability to manipulate a defense came not just from pure athleticism and jumping shots. It also had its subtle influence from the basic, but often difficult, way of moving the feet. Some of the most technically gifted players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Joel Embiid and Steve Nash brought their football lessons to the basketball court.
Shaquille O’Neal no longer co-owner of the Sacramento Kings
In 2013, Shaquille O’Neal acquired shares of the Sacramento Kings franchise. While part-owner of the Kings, he was still universally associated with the LA Lakers. He announced on Twitter on Wednesday that he would sell his stake with the Kings.
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The move is in line with NBA rules, necessary for O’Neal to be interested in a sports betting business.