Kobe Bryant: Things better with Shaq

LOS ANGELES -- No word on whether pigs can fly yet, but Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal are getting along these days.

The former Los Angeles Lakers teammates, who infamously feuded during their time together from 1996 to 2004, have buried the hatchet, according to Bryant.

"It was good to see him," Bryant said after O'Neal sat in courtside seats for the Lakers' 91-85 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. "I had a chance to kind of catch up with him a little bit after the [Miami] Heat game here at Staples [on Jan. 17], and tonight we got a couple good laughs, a couple good inside jokes."

Bryant met with O'Neal before the game under the basket on the end of the court near the Lakers' bench by the 40-year-old former center's baseline seats.

"Shaq and I have a really, really good relationship now," Bryant said of the 15-time All-Star with whom he teamed to capture three straight NBA championships from 2000 to '02.

"It's good. I think it's a good lesson for all of us."

Bryant exchanged several glances with O'Neal during the game, particularly after the big man was on the kiss cam pretending to make out with the man sitting next to him. O'Neal was later "escorted" out of the arena after the third quarter by actor Will Ferrell, who was dressed as a Staples Center security guard complete with a red jacket and identity badge.

"I think we appreciate each other more now than ever," Bryant said. "I think the further you get away from the history that you had together, the more you put perspective on it on how dominant we were.

"It's fun for us to kind of get together again and kind of reminisce on some of the old stories. It's fun. It's good to see him."

O'Neal's presence wasn't as fun for Lakers center Dwight Howard, whom O'Neal has repeatedly needled in the media.

"I didn't really pay attention to him," Howard said of O'Neal.

Howard fired back at O'Neal's constant criticism in the preseason, telling reporters, "I don't care what Shaq says. Shaq played the game. He's done. He's gone. It's time to move on."

While Howard is playing in Bryant's shadow in L.A., that used to be the role Bryant assumed while playing alongside O'Neal.

"The challenge for me was to show [O'Neal] and show everybody else that I could win without him," Bryant said. "And point proven. So, I'm fine either way. I took it as an honor and as a challenge to be a player that could play a supporting role and then move from that and take the leading role and win that way as well. I took a lot of pride of that, but I also took a lot of pride in kind of being a floor general and letting [O'Neal] do his thing."

O'Neal will be back in the Staples Center on April 2 when the Lakers will retire his No. 34 jersey before their game against the Dallas Mavericks.