- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2008

So Shaquille O’Neal has had what he claims is another comedic outburst, this time as a freestyle rapper who waxes poetically on Kobe Bryant and the breakup of his marriage, the former connected to the latter.

It is amusing stuff if you are not on the receiving end of the venom, as Bryant was, and your range of humor is limited to the bathroom.

O’Neal raises the taste test with Bryant.

“Kobe, how does my [butt] taste?” O’Neal raps to the delight of the New York nightclub audience, no doubt thrilled to be watching a famous basketball player make a buffoon of himself.

And O’Neal plays the buffoon, if only to mask his deep-rooted grudge against Bryant.

It is the contention of O’Neal that Bryant cannot win the NBA championship without him and that Bryant’s comments to investigators in Colorado contributed to the breakup of his marriage.

It is true that Bryant’s ineffective performance against the Celtics in the NBA Finals prompted a glut of he’s-no-Michael-Jordan commentaries.

Yet that is the quick analysis and apt to look faulty in the seasons ahead, considering the overall youth and depth of the Lakers.

The Lakers are built to be in the championship hunt the next several seasons, and it will be left to Bryant to be the deciding element.

If O’Neal is inclined to dismiss the possibilities, he is entitled.

The rest of us do not have to be so small-minded.

O’Neal’s beef with Bryant stems from Bryant’s one-time legal difficulties in Colorado regarding a woman not his wife.

The woman claimed she was raped, Bryant claimed a misunderstanding and eventually the two parties came to a resolution.

This was after Bryant, for whatever reasons, told investigators that O’Neal was in the habit of buying his way out of sexual indiscretions.

This revelation mattered little to investigators because O’Neal was not in Colorado at the time of the incident.

“I’m a horse. Kobe ratted me out,” O’Neal rapped. “That’s why I’m getting divorced. He said Shaq gave a [woman] a mil. I don’t do that ‘cause my name’s Shaquille. I love ‘em. I don’t leave ‘em. I got a vasectomy. Now I can’t breed ‘em.”

Five years have passed since Bryant turned weasel on O’Neal, long enough for both men to get over their animosity and recognize that the two forever will be linked as one of the NBA’s all-time leading inside-outside duos.

It possibly is to their regret that they could not put aside their hubris, egos and immaturity to make the relationship work the length of their careers.

Although O’Neal won another NBA championship two seasons ago - largely because of Dwyane Wade’s heavy lifting - he likely will not win another championship.

He is in steep decline, a mere trace of his previous dominating self, the Suns no better equipped because of him.

That reality probably set him to rapping. If he no longer can play a strong game, at least he can rap one.

It came across as petty, vindictive and the artistic equivalent of a big whew after Bryant and the Lakers fell to the Celtics in six games.

After the video surfaced on the Internet, O’Neal was moved to go into damage control, as he usually does after his mouth crosses the boundaries of good taste.

He told ESPN that he “was freestyling. That’s all. It was all in fun.”

He added: “I’m totally cool with Kobe. No issue at all.”

If that is how O’Neal responds to a person with whom he has no issue, you would not want to hear how he would respond to a person who is on his bad side.

O’Neal’s no-harm, no-foul explanation failed to impress “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Arizona’s Joe Arpaio, who pulled the center’s special deputy’s badge in Maricopa County on Tuesday after awarding it to him in January.

That is unfortunate because O’Neal has been serious about pursuing a career in law enforcement after retiring from basketball.

But he should know that enough is enough with Bryant.

Let it rest. Let it be.

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