Shaquille O’Neal wouldn’t be surprised if Kobe Bryant made a shock return to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant, now 40, retired from the NBA in 2016 but that hasn’t stopped him from regularly being asked about a potential comeback. The five-time champion of course, who is a legend of the sport, continues to train with many of the top stars today and for nostalgic reasons, it would be great to see him on the court again.
While in reality, an NBA comeback is unlikely, playing in the BIG3 could be something that is possible. The 3-on-3 basketball league was created by rapper Ice Cube in 2017 and mostly features retired players taking part.
However, O’Neal, who won three championships alongside Bryant during their time in Los Angeles, thinks a return to the NBA would be more likely than him taking part in the BIG3.
“He will never go to the BIG3 before he does the NBA,” O’Neil said on his podcast, as quoted on USA Today. “I’m just saying … Listen, everybody knows who Kobe is. You mean to tell me Kobe can’t give somebody a nice 15-20 minutes a game?”
“That’s all … If he came back at 40, the announcement would be the biggest sports announcement in history … He don’t even have to play great. Just come play 15-20 minutes a game as a Laker. And if they happen to do well, it would probably be one of the greatest stories in NBA history. Kobe likes stuff like that, that’s all I’m saying.”
Bryant, on the other hand, has ruled out a return many times and is enjoying life after basketball.
The Philadelphia native won an Oscar earlier this year for the animated short film “Dear Basketball,” which was produced by his own Granity Studios, and has also partnered with ESPN on the show “Detail” where he gives breakdowns of NBA players.
Bryant is also making smart money moves as it was revealed his $6 million investment in sports drink BodyArmor back in March 2014, was now worth $200 million after Coca-Cola recently acquired it. He notably earned $328 million during the span of his 20-year career.
Bryant hopes to keep remaining busy to show people there is indeed life after basketball as he explained last month.
“When I retired, everybody was saying, ‘He’s too competitive. He’s not going to know what to do with himself. He’s going to have to come back.’ I took that as a personal challenge of them thinking I’m this one-dimensional person,” Bryant said. “That all I know is to dribble the ball, shoot the ball, play basketball and compete at that level.”
“So I took that as a personal challenge. I will never come back to the game. Ever. I’m here to show people we (athletes) can do much more than that. And creating this business, winning an Oscar, and the Emmy and the Annie — those are things that are showing other athletes that come after, ‘No, no, there’s more to this thing.'”