Former NBA star center Shaquille O'Neal says he thinks Kobe Bryant can return to basketball without being that great of a player.
Bryant has been retired since 2016 but talk of a comeback has been rife, despite the Los Angeles Lakers legend's insistence on being done with the game at a competitive level.
Ice Cube's BIG3 brand is also thought to be something that could lure the former shooting guard back to the court. But O'Neal says his ex-teammate would return to the NBA before considering a move to the BIG3.
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"He will never go to the BIG3 before he does the NBA," O'Neal said on his podcast, (H/T USA Today). "I’m just saying… Listen, everybody knows who Kobe is. You mean to tell me Kobe can’t give somebody a nice 15-20 minutes a game?"
"That’s all. If he came back at 40, the announcement would be the biggest sports announcement in history… He don’t even have to play great. Just come play 15-20 minutes a game as a Laker. And if they happen to do well, it would probably be one of the greatest stories in NBA history. Kobe likes stuff like that, that’s all I’m saying."
Bryant is currently working on other ventures and has said that he is out to prove to detractors that he can achieve success outside the world of basketball.
"When I retired, everybody was saying, 'He’s too competitive. He’s not going to know what to do with himself. He’s going to have to come back.' I took that as a personal challenge of them thinking I’m this one-dimensional person," he said on the Rich Eisen Show last month. "That all I know is to dribble the ball, shoot the ball, play basketball and compete at that level."
"So I took that as a personal challenge. I will never come back to the game. Ever. I’m here to show people we (athletes) can do much more than that. And creating this business, winning an Oscar, and the Emmy and the Annie — those are things that are showing other athletes that come after, ‘No, no, there’s more to this thing.'"
The erstwhile star won an Oscar earlier this year for short film titled Dear Basketball, produced by his company Granity Studios. He has also partnered with ESPN for Detail, a show on which he provides analysis on current NBA players.