The early days of Kobe Bryant’s career were complicated to say the least: everybody remembers his infamous four-airball playoff performance against the Utah Jazz in 1995, and his alleged “me first” attitude that rubbed Phil Jackson and his teammates the wrong way.

Despite the criticisms, Kobe never lost his way.

He stuck to the formula that made him successful throughout his mercurial career, blazing a path while redefining the narrative from “selfish” to “assertive,” from wild and reckless to unstoppable and fierce.

His greatest ally on the basketball court also served as one of his greatest heels, as Shaquille O’Neal, the self-described “Most Dominant Ever” and Lakers legend, began to adjust his own role, and his own alpha dog personality, to fit Kobe into the mix to the betterment of the team that went on to win three titles.

On Monday morning at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, O’Neal’s trademark dry humor was on full display as he recalled learning Kobe’s confidence and approach to the game.

“These guys are playing checkers, and I’m out here playing chess,” Bryant said according to O’Neal at one point in his career.

And I would say, “I guess so, Kobe, I don’t know how to play chess,” Shaq remarked.

He also compared their on-again, off-again feud to a famous duo from classic rock music history of The Beatles fame.

“But not unlike another leadership duo, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, whose creative rivalry led to some of the greatest music of all time. Kobe and I pushed one another to play some of the greatest basketball of all time and I am proud that no other team has accomplished what the three-peat Lakers have done since the Shaq and Kobe Lakers did it. And sometimes like immature kids, we argued, we fought, we bantered, we assaulted each other with offhand remarks on the field.

“Make no mistake, even when folks thought we were on bad terms, when the cameras are turned off, he and I would throw a wink at each other and say let’s go whoop some a–.”

To conclude the speech, O’Neal spoke about turning a negative into a positive, as he said Kobe would have wanted.

“Mamba, you were taken away from us way too soon. Your next chapter of life was just beginning. But now it’s time for us to continue your legacy.

“You said yourself that everything negative, pressure, challenges is all opportunity for me to rise. So take that sage advice and now rise from anguish and begin with the healing.”

O’Neal also recounted the time when Kobe first gained his respect, in a hilarious story that’s now making the rounds about the time when his teammates asked him to confront Bryant about his reluctance to pass the ball.

Watch below at the 3:40 mark if you’re short on time:

Thumbnail photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images