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Shaquille O'Neal vs. Kobe Bryant: Who Was the Better 2000s Player?

Video Duration:

With the NBA on hiatus, SI's Michael Shapiro is ranking the best NBA players of years and decades prior. In conversation with SI's Robin Lundberg, Shapiro explains how he chooses between Shaq and Kobe—two close friends—for the 2000s decade.

Read the full video transcript below:

Robin Lundberg: With the NBA on hiatus, it's player ranking season, and our Michael Shapiro has been ranking the best player each year for each decade. Let's go to the 2000s, Michael. Shaq and Kobe sort of owned it...Shaq or Kobe? Who is the better player more often?

Michael Shapiro: I think it's really tough to kind of separate their legacies, especially in the 2000s. You know, I think that Shaquille O'Neal kind of gets a large share of the credit, and rightfully so with three Finals MVP [Awards]. But you look to '02, '03 title specifically, it's hard to see the Lakers winning that championship without Bryant. I think O'Neal's sheer dominance at his peak as we dove into the piece is really unmatched aside from Jordan. I think O'Neal gets a slight, slight edge over Bryant.

Robin Lundberg: Is there a longevity argument for Kobe?

Michael Shapiro: Yes, certainly. I mean, I think that O'Neill, after that first or second Miami season, kind of petered out in his performance. And as we saw from Kobe, he really kept going strong. I think it was really injuries that threw up his career in 2012, 2013, and 2014. You know, it's a little bit of a shame that Bryant couldn't have a better team around him at the end of his career to chase that sixth ring. Kobe winning number four and number five on his own certainly is a big notch in his column. 

Robin Lundberg: Yeah, I mean obviously it added to his legacy tremendously. Michael, appreciate your time, as always.

You can read more from Robin Lundberg here.