Shaq’s Kobe tribute will break your heart
SITTING at centre court inside Staples Centre in Los Angeles on Wednesday, a grief-stricken Shaquille O'Neal teared up as he continued to mourn the death of Kobe Bryant.
"I haven't felt the pain that sharp in a while," O'Neal said as part of TNT's tribute to his former Lakers running mate.
O'Neal said he was working out in his basement when one of his nephews showed him his phone with news that the 41-year-old Bryant was killed in a Southern California helicopter crash earlier that morning, which also claimed the lives of seven others, including Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, as they were on their way to Bryant's basketball facility.
"And I snapped on (the nephew)," O'Neal said, not believing the news. "We live in a world where anything can be Photoshopped, hoaxed.
"Everybody called me and we found out it was confirmed."
O'Neal, 47, said the loss of Bryant, whom he shared an up-and-down relationship with, hurt extra because Shaq had just lost his younger sister Ayesha to cancer in October.
"Now I lost a little brother," Shaq said, as the rest of the panel including Ernie Johnson, NBA greats Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Dwyane Wade consoled him.
O'Neal said the "final blow" was when he found out Gianna, an aspiring hoopster who planned on starring in the WNBA, was among those killed.
Shaq and Kobe led the Lakers to three consecutive championships from 2000-02, but beef between the two led to O'Neal being traded to Miami in 2004.
O'Neal went on to win a title with the Heat two years later alongside Wade, while Bryant won championships in 2009 and 2010.
After Bryant retired in 2016, it appeared the two had reconciled, though O'Neal said he hadn't spoken to Bryant as much as he'd like in recent years.
During his podcast on Monday, O'Neal said he hadn't eaten or slept since the accident.
"I'm sick right now," he said on the podcast. "And I know some idiot's gonna bring up the relationship me and Kobe had. Our relationship was that of brothers. We're brothers on this podcast, John, we argue all the time. But in real life, when I see you and your lovely wife, it's all about respect."