You’ve described how you and Kobe almost got into a ﬁst ﬁght at practice. Do you admire him for not backing down from you? It’s not that he didn’t back down. I was on one side of the room and he was on the other. He is a tough kid, but, well, tough don’t matter. I like to ﬁght tough people. He’s a tough stubborn kid, and he’s going to do it his way. He did it his way. The young Maﬁa don did it his way and got the Don Dada whacked.
Whose side were the fans on?
I don’t know, because it doesn’t matter to me. Some people love him, and some people hate me.
Lakers fans were mad when you delayed surgery before the 2002–03 season and said, “I got hurt on company time, so I’m going to heal on company time.”
It’s true. A lot of people don’t know this, but they didn’t have enough insurance to cover my foot. They didn’t. My contract was $100 [million.] So if I can’t play, I have to get that fucking money. That’s why I had to go to UCLA and get it done. I’m wasting time waiting on them. I would go to the doctor and they’d say, “Come back next week.” They made it look like that. I never told the story, but the whole story was that they didn’t have enough insurance to cover my big toe. So once they got enough insurance, it was like, “Hey, if we fuck it up, you’re going to get your $100 million.” “Okay, cut it open.” I’m not going to let you cut me if it’s not insured. They only had like $20 million coverage with Lloyd’s of London.
After leaving Los Angeles, you had a volatile relationship with Pat Riley in Miami.
When he ﬁrst came, he was cool as shit. We had short practices, no yelling and we won a championship. The next summer he went back to the old Pat.
He didn’t want you guys in “chill-out mode.”
Exactly. But I played better in chill-out mode. I don’t like to come into the party with my dick hard all the time. You have to pace yourself. How many times have you seen a team come out 9-0 and then don’t get close to winning a championship? I like to chill and then get into kill mode about 10 games before the Playoffs. It always worked for me, and I wasn’t going to change my method for no one. He wanted me to eat salad. I’m not going to do that.
After Kobe won his ﬁfth ring in 2010, the ﬁrst thing he said was, “That’s one more than Shaq.” Were you offended?
I wasn’t offended. You have to use me as the measuring stick because I’ve been the man for so long. It’s not like he’s saying something that’s not factual. He said that, and then I was like, “Let me go to Boston and tie that shit up real quick.” It’s all a game. I don’t get personal, brother.
The injuries had caught up with you by then. Do you worry about what your body is going to be like in 10, 20 years?
No. The reason why I don’t worry is because I’m blessed and I’m lucky. You can’t worry about those things.
Did you make guys better throughout your career?
Of course I did. The true deﬁnition of a great player is a guy that makes players better. I made Derek Fisher’s career. I made D. Scott’s career. I made Glen [Rice’s]. Everybody that played with me got a new contract.