Separating Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal on different teams on different coasts has done nothing to lessen the animosity between the one-time Los Angeles Laker teammates. If anything, the feud is escalating.

On Wednesday, O’Neal dismissed as “ridiculous” Bryant’s allegations that O’Neal had paid up to $1 million in hush money to various women and then took his own shot by saying, “I’m not the one buying love.”

O’Neal made the remark over the telephone to a staffer at ESPN, the network said, after the Los Angeles Times quoted a police report as saying Bryant told detectives in Eagle, Colo., “he should have done what Shaq does … that Shaq would pay his women not to say anything” and already had paid up to $1 million “for situations like this.”

The statement came near the end of a lengthy interrogation about a hotel employee’s complaint that Bryant had raped her.

The Times said it was unclear precisely what Bryant meant by his remarks.

Prosecutors dropped criminal charges against Bryant earlier this month at the accuser’s request, but the woman has filed a federal civil suit against him in Denver, seeking unspecified damages for pain and suffering since the case began.

O’Neal was informed of Bryant’s allegation last September, and the relationship between the two was cool throughout the 2003-04 season. O’Neal was subsequently traded to the Miami Heat.

“This whole situation is ridiculous,” O’Neal told ESPN. “I never hang out with Kobe, I never hung around him. In the seven or eight years we were together, we were never together. So how this guy can think he knows anything about me or my business is funny. And one last thing — I’m not the one buying love. He’s the one buying love.”

O’Neal’s latter comment was an apparent reference to a ring — reportedly costing several million dollars — that Bryant gave his wife, Vanessa, after he was charged with felony sexual assault last summer.

There have been no published reports of O’Neal ever being accused of any sex crimes. He was charged with misdemeanor battery in Orange County, Fla., in 1998 after a 23-year-old Walt Disney World employee claimed he grabbed her neck, but the case was dismissed in 2000.