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MARK HEISLER / ON THE NBA

Kobe and Shaq get it together one last time

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, famous for feuding as Lakers and rarely more than cordial since the breakup, are best buds at NBA All-Star game and are named co-MVPs in West's 146-119 victory.

February 16, 2009|MARK HEISLER | ON THE NBA

PHOENIX — Say goodbye to the ones and only.

Good times, bad times, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant had their share, but if Sunday night's All-Star game was their last time, it was one for all time.

Bryant scored 27 points, O'Neal had 17 and the former Lakers teammates were named co-MVPs as the West crushed the East, 146-119.

Appropriately enough, it was the third All-Star most-valuable-player award for each, joining Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson. Only Bob Pettit ever won four.

"The Big Legendaries," O'Neal proclaimed afterward, putting his arm around Bryant.

They also did a joint postgame news conference, with O'Neal plainly nostalgic . . . and Bryant plainly not.

"It felt like old times." O'Neal said. "I miss those times. He was really looking for me, especially when we went to a pick-and-roll and Rashard Lewis was on me. He was really looking for me."

To which Bryant replied:

"We're not going to go watch 'Steel Magnolias,' or something like that, you know what I'm saying? Crying, all that stuff. We had a good time. That's all."

Of course, O'Neal has a good reason to be nostalgic. No one expected him to be an All-Star again at 36, including Shaq.

If this was his farewell tour, he went out like Shaquille O'Neal, donning a white mask in pregame introductions and doing a dance number with the Jabberwockees troupe, who looked like Munchkins in white masks, next to him.

"The Jabberwockees are the best dance crew out there, and I just wanted to be different," O'Neal said. "I realize this may possibly be my last one, so I wanted to make it memorable for myself and the fans."

It was the best thing that had happened in days for the host Suns, or the only good thing. Otherwise, the event was a massive bummer for them, coming as it did at such an inconvenient time.

Amid reports they are about to fire Terry Porter and replace him with Alvin Gentry, and/or trade Amare Stoudemire, the question seemed to be which would last longer, All-Star weekend or the Suns.

Not that Stoudemire looked at all uncomfortable. Finding a large throng of press people waiting for him at Friday's media session, he asked, "What's going on at Stoudemire's table? Cocktails on me?"

This wasn't Phil Jackson's idea of how to spend a weekend off, either, which Commissioner David Stern noted, wryly, when asked about the All-Star selection process.

"This is a tough league," Stern said. "We've got lots of unhappy people. They get unhappy if they don't get elected, they get unhappy if I don't select them if there's an injury.

"Sometimes they get unhappy if I do select them -- oh, no, that's Phil Jackson."

If Jackson had to be here, nothing was going to stop him from pairing O'Neal and Bryant, who won him three titles, amid misunderstandings.

In the first quarter, Jackson let Bryant, a starter, stay on the court when he subbed the rest of the first unit out and brought in O'Neal.

The West then went on a 19-0 run that took them from 12 points behind into the lead.

With the West up 92-83 in the third quarter, O'Neal came back in to play alongside Bryant and they broke the game open.

However, Jackson admitted he was surprised to see them become co-MVPs. "That's the first time I ever saw an MVP who played 11 minutes," Jackson said.

That was how many O'Neal played, but that didn't count his pregame dance, another big hit.

Asked afterward about Shaq's dancing, Bryant gave him an A-plus.

"Appreciate that," O'Neal murmured.

"That size, moving and all that?" Bryant said. "He didn't show you the windmill."

For his part, O'Neal said, "Kobe is the best player in the league. He has been the best player in the league, so A-plus on that side. And A-plus for being a great guy.

"He even let me take the trophy home today for my boys, so I appreciate him for that."

Whether this actually changed anything remains to be seen.

The actual feud ended three years ago. They've been cordial since, but Bryant showed he hadn't put it all behind him at Friday's media session, noting, "It wasn't a fun time for me, so I'm not about to revisit it."

Sunday evening ended with Bryant and O'Neal hugging and Kobe turning around on his way out of the interview room to shake hands with Shaq's young sons.

All's well that ends well, or at least all is better.

Now they should cut that trophy down the middle and each take half, Shaq-and-Kobe style. That would really be memorable.

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mark.heisler@latimes.com

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Rumors are on

the rise in Phoenix

Suns Coach Terry Porter reportedly is on his way out, and Amare Stoudemire could be too. PAGE 6

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