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Shaquille O’Neal believes Kobe Bryant belongs in GOAT debate with Michael Jordan, LeBron James

Lakers, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, LeBron James

Shaquille O’Neal says Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant belongs in the GOAT debate with Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

After “The Last Dance” docuseries concluded, O’Neal spoke to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith about the similarities between Bryant and Jordan and how the late Lakers icon was lucky to have developed a relationship with MJ, via Silver Screen and Roll:

“I would think [their mentality] is pretty much equal. I never really spent a lot of time with Mike but, of course, watching him win a championship, watching his demeanor, and watching him wanting the ball at the last second, I would say it’s pretty equal,” O’Neal said.

“And Kobe made a great point: we all look at players before us and we take a little something from them. I wanted to be mean like Patrick Ewing in the post, I wanted to run the floor like David Robinson, I wanted to dominate like Wilt Chamberlain. The only difference is Kobe was able to have a telephone number and have a relationship with these guys. The rest of us, we just had to see other people emulate other people, and steal what they had. But I’m actually glad they had a relationship.

“A lot of people always ask, ‘who’s the greatest player to in the game: Jordan? LeBron?’ I think you must respectfully add Kobe in that conversation.”

Bryant and Shaq won three titles together on the Lakers. Kobe went on to win two more with Pau Gasol in 2009 and 2010. He’s universally recognized as the second-greatest shooting guard in NBA history behind Jordan and the best player in Lakers franchise history.

The GOAT debate between LeBron and Jordan has been even more furious lately after “The Last Dance” docuseries ended. However, O’Neal wants basketball fans to appreciate greatness and include The Black Mamba in the GOAT talks, even if he ultimately thinks Jordan deserves the title.

Bryant finished his legendary Lakers career with averages of 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He was a two-time Finals MVP.