They made magic happen in the paint together, and while they had their differences off of the court, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were like family. The two Los Angeles Lakers legends have known each other for decades and their families were interwoven—Kobe reportedly even texted Shaq’s son Shareef just prior to the helicopter crash to ask how the 20-year-old has been recovering since his heart surgery. Following the news of Kobe’s death, Shaq shared that he hasn’t eaten or slept, and in a sorrowful segment of NBA on TNT, the basketball icon broke down in tears remembering his longtime friend.
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The NBA champion said that he was working out with his son when his nephew came in crying. His nephew held up his phone and showed him the news of Kobe’s death and Shaq admits that initially, he told him to “get that out of my face.” Shaq added, “We live in a world where anything can be photoshopped, anything can be hoaxed. I didn’t want to believe it.”
Sadly, others in the industry began calling Shaq to confirm that Kobe was gone. “I haven’t felt a pain that sharp in a while,” Shaq said. “Forty-seven-years-old… lost two grandmothers, lost a sarge, lost my sister, and now I lost a little brother. Our names will be attached together for what we did. People always ask about our relationship and I tell them it’s just like me and Charles [Barkley]. You got two strong-minded people that are gonna get it done their way, gonna say certain things. The respect will never be lost. But when it comes to being inside the lines and winning, that’s what me and him, that’s what we did.”
Shaq shared how he was further gutted by the false rumors that Rick Fox as on the helicopter and lost his life as well. Yet, the “final blow” was when he heard about Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna Maria-Onore Bryant who died alongside her father. It became difficult for Shaq to continue speaking about his friend as he became choked up and tears streamed down his face. The sports star said that this tragedy has shown him that he needs to take more time for the ones he loves because he’s left wishing he could say more to his late friend. Watch the deeply emotional clip below.