Perhaps no basketball player was closer with Kobe Bryant than Shaquille O’Neal. The two won three NBA titles together with the Los Angeles Lakers, and Shaq called Bryant his “brother.”
On his podcast “The Big Podcast with Shaq,” he talked about Bryant’s death in a helicopter accident, which happened just one day prior.
“I wish we would have communicated more,” O’Neal said. “That’s just how we are. Of course, when we saw each other it was love and respect and you know looking out for the kids. His daughter Gigi was a fabulous player. I just wish I could have talked to him before, that’s it. I just wish he was here. I wish I could say something to him.”
He went on to talk about the bond they shared with each other’s kids.
“When I saw Kobe and his daughters — I love them,” O’Neal said. “He saw my kids. He loved them. If you look at my kid’s Instagram, he talked to Shareef yesterday morning. So, all of that stuff that was documented between us was never a dislike. I love Kobe Bryant.
“We are still the best duo ever created,” O’Neal added. “That’s never going to change. For me, this is going to hurt a long time. I really lost a brother yesterday.”
Shaq had previously shared his thoughts on the tragedy via his Instagram account.
“There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of loosing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie,” he wrote on Sunday. “I love you brother and you will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW!”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a statement on behalf of the league on Sunday:
“The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. For 20 seasons, Kobe showed us what is possible when remarkable talent blends with an absolute devotion to winning. He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of our game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals.”
“But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability. He was generous with the wisdom he acquired and saw it as his mission to share it with future generations of players, taking special delight in passing down his love of the game to Gianna. We send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Vanessa, and their family, the Lakers organization and the entire sports world.”