Shaquille O’Neal cut an emotional figure when discussing his former teammate Kobe Bryant, who tragically died alongside his eldest daughter Gianni and seven others on Sunday.
When discussing one of their careers, the other inevitably comes up. Considering what they achieved together at the LA Lakers, that’s not surprising. Both prodigious talents as youngsters, “Shaq” was drafted by the Orlando Magic in 1992 before signing with the Lakers as a free agent in 1996 where he was joined by “Kobe” a young kid, fresh out of high school. Both were destined for stardom and would play a pivotal role in getting each other there.
The pair would go on to dominate the NBA winning three successive championships between 2000-2002. Their relationship reportedly soured in later years before O’Neal moved on to the Miami Heat where he won another NBA title, however, Bryant would stay with the Lakers and win two more titles in 2009 and 2010.
Despite their reported feud, the pair would later reconcile and pick up their friendship where it left off. Since retirement, O’Neal has been working as an analyst with TNT. Last night the network was due to air live coverage of the Lakers’ derby game against city rivals the LA Clippers, however, the game was postponed.
Instead, O’Neal and his fellow panellists sat at centre court in the Staples Center, where the pair made so many memories together and paid an emotional tribute to Bryant.
O’Neal then broke down as he spoke more about the loss of Bryant as well as some of his family who had also recently passed.
“The fact that we’re not going to be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony, we’re not going to be able to say, ‘Hi, I’ve got five [rings], you’ve got four,’ the fact that we’re not going to say if we’d stayed together we could have got 10, those are the things you can’t get back,” O’Neal said.
“I’m going to try and do a better job, just reaching out and just talking to the people, rather than always procrastinating because you never know. Life is too short.”
“The fact that we lost probably the world’s greatest Laker, the world’s greatest basketball player is just – listen, people are going to say take your time and get better, but this is going to be hard for me,” O’Neal said.
“I already don’t sleep anyway, but I’ll figure it out.”
The former Lakers star admitted he did not believe the news when he was first informed by family.
“I didn’t want to believe it. I said to my son, ‘I hope some buttface made this up and it’s not true’. But then after getting all the calls … my spirit just left my body.”
You can watch the full tribute below.
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