By Rob Peterson, NBA.com
Posted Feb 16 2009 11:54AM
PHOENIX -- Theirs is a classic story. After a long and successful run, two brilliant performers with completely different personalities have a bitter breakup. Yet, for whatever reason, be it fate or time or, in this case, a combined vote of fans and the Western Conference coaches, they are brought together again and everyone hopes they can recapture the magic ... if only for one night.
For 48 minutes on Sunday, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were reunited and, for NBA fans and the two former teammates, it felt so good.
Bryant and O'Neal, after eight years and three NBA championships with the Lakers, went through an acrimonious breakup in the summer of 2004. But on Sunday, they were named co-Most Valuable Players of the 2009 All-Star Game, combining for 44 points in leading the Western Conference All-Stars over the East, 146-119 (Highlights | Box Score).
It was the third MVP award each for Bryant and O'Neal, tying them with Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan and leaving them one shy of the All-Star record of four held by Hawks legend Bob Pettit.
For Bryant, who earned his first All-Star MVP in 2002, it was his second MVP in the last three All-Star games. O'Neal became the first player in All-Star history to share two MVP awards. He and Tim Duncan were named co-MVPs of the 2000 All-Star Game in Oakland.
For a while in the second half, it felt like Y2K, the year O'Neal and Bryant led the Lakers to the first of three straight titles. Not less than a minute after he subbed for starter Yao Ming at the 5:53 mark in the third quarter, O'Neal posted up on the block and Bryant found him for an easy layup. Two minutes later, O'Neal set a screen for Bryant, who fed Shaq for an easy dunk. What had been an 11-point game when Shaq came in had turned into a rout.
"It felt like old times," Shaq admitted. "I miss those times. He was really looking for me, especially when we went to a pick-and-roll and they had Rashard Lewis on me.
"He was really looking for me."
Even before the game, O'Neal had all eyes on him. During the West's introductions, the 7-foot-1 center donned the white mask of the avant-garde dance troupe JabbaWockeeZ and thrilled the crowd with a rehearsed routine.
"I wanted to do a little something different and unique," O'Neal said. "They are the best dance crew out there. I realized that this [All-Star] may be my last one, so I wanted to make it memorable for myself and the fans."
But as far as getting nostalgic, Kobe noted their fingers won't be accidentally touching in a bucket of popcorn any time soon. "We're not going to back to the room and watch Steel Magnolias or something like that," Kobe said. "You know what I'm saying, crying all that stuff.
"We had a good time, that's all."
Their Abbott and Costello-style comedy routine took a back seat with the reality that each player faces coming out of the All-Star break. O'Neal, according to reports, will be playing for a new coach as soon as Monday. Several media outlets have the Suns firing head coach Terry Porter and replacing him with assistant Alvin Gentry.
"I haven't heard that yet, so I don't think I should comment on that," O'Neal said. "Of course I read it in the paper and of course I heard you guys say it, but I haven't gotten a call from [GM] Steve [Kerr] or [owner] Robert [Sarver] yet.
"So, I'm just going to chill out on that question."
And Bryant turned serious when talking about the Lakers' schedule.
"We got a tough week coming up," Bryant said, lips pursed. "We got Atlanta, going back up against Golden State, which is always tough. We hit the ground running.
"It was a fun weekend. As soon as I leave this podium, it is time to get back down to business."
For 48 minutes, though, one of the more famous tandems in NBA history became teammates once more. And, again, they were good at what they did.
Shaq and Kobe. Kobe and Shaq. Together again. For one night only.
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