Posted: Tuesday January 17, 2006 10:10AM; Updated: Tuesday January 17, 2006 1:41PM
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"I was surprised," said Bryant, who scored a game-high 37 points in leading the Lakers to their sixth win in seven games. "I was very surprised. But it's good. I think it's good for the city of Los Angeles, good for the NBA as a whole and especially good for our youth. This being MLK Day, it's good for all the African-American youths that look up to us to see that we're mature and putting this behind us."
Although the two had not spoken in nearly two years, when O'Neal and Bryant finally exchanged words it had nothing to do with basketball or even about each other.
"It wasn't anything important that we talked about," O'Neal said. "We actually talked about something that was more important than basketball. His wife's having a baby and my wife's having a baby, so I just went up to him and said congratulates on the baby. We'll see each other again when you guys aren't around. We'll sit down and have a conversation."
The end of the bitter feud was a relief to Bryant, who actually wanted to bury the hatchet with O'Neal when the two met last season. Until Monday night, however, O'Neal would not acknowledge Bryant's presence on the court and would refuse to acknowledge him in interviews, refusing to even utter Bryant's name.
"It made me feel good," said Bryant of ending the feud. "We've been through so many wars together. It feels good to be able to enjoy that again and now just be able to move on, and for this organization and the city to move on and focus on building this team, and wishing him all the best with his team down in South Beach."
While Kobe-Shaq IV might not have provided the same amount of pregame hype as its Christmas Day predecessors; it certainly offered up the most action in terms of the much publicized feud between the former teammates. Moments after O'Neal shook Bryant's hand during pregame warm-ups, Bryant and Lamar Odom met with O'Neal at center court and this time it was Bryant who extended his hand and brought in O'Neal for a hug as he patted him on the head and said, "We're cool."
They again embraced each other before the opening tip. The sudden lovefest might have been the most the two have hugged or even talked to each other in one day during the past five years. That's counting their tumultuous last couple seasons as teammates on the Lakers when they would regularly offer up veiled and not-so-veiled criticisms about one another through the media.
As Bryant prepared to leave Staples Center, with his first win over O'Neal's Heat under his belt and the rift over, he said he looked forward to sitting down with O'Neal somewhere in South Beach or Newport Beach during the offseason and further burying their feud.
"Yeah, I'm looking forward to that," said Bryant. "We'll probably talk about tricking out cars; like putting hydraulics on a '53 Impala. We'll be talking about fun stuff."