Shaquille O’Neal couldn’t help but get teary when talking about the death of longtime teammate Kobe Bryant.
O’Neal’s emotion was evident as he sat down for a TNT tribute alongside fellow basketball legends Charles Barkley, Dwayne Wade, Ernie “Magic” Johnson, Jerry West, Kenny Smith and Reggie Miller, taped from the floor of the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“The fact that we are not going to be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony. … The fact that we are not going to be able to say, ‘If we would have stayed together, we could have gotten 10 [championships],’ ” said O’Neal as tears streamed down his face. “Those are the things you can’t get back.”
Shaq became increasingly emotional as he considered the passing of his sister, father and grandma. In light of this most recent loss, he added, he was going to make life changes.
“[Bryant’s death] definitely changes me. Because I work a lot. … I work probably more than the average guy,” O’Neal said. “But I just really now have to take time to just call and say ‘I love you.’ “
Bryant, 41, died in a nine-fatality helicopter crash on Sunday, Jan. 26; daughter Gigi, 13, was also on board the aircraft. Considered one of the greatest NBA players in history, the star won five NBA championships, two NBA Finals MVPs and the 2008 league MVP; he was an 18-time All-Star during his two decade-long career.
In his post-NBA life, Bryant spent more time with wife Vanessa and his four children: Natalia, Gigi, Bianka and Capri. In an Instagram post, Shaq said what the two shared most wasn’t basketball prowess but a love of family.
“Kobe was so much more than an athlete; he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. We love our families. Whenever we got together I would hug his children like they were my own, and he would embrace my kids like they were his,” he wrote. “I miss you already, brother. This is truly unbelievable.”
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Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. We love our families. Whenever we got together I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gianna was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me’Arah. I miss you already brother. This is truly unbelievable. Everyone please keep the Bryant’s in your prayers. R.I.P
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