Anyone who witnessed Shaquille O’ Neal’s reflection on his time with former teammate Kobe Bryant at a memorial service held in honor of the fallen basketball star knows the Lakers Hall of Famer didn’t speak long before the tears started to flow. And though its seven months since his ex-teammate lost his life in a helicopter accident, the tears are not yet dry.
Shaq expressed pain at the fact there are so many things he hesitated to say to Kobe that he will now never have to chance to communicate. He says he would hate to see anyone lose their life the way Kobe’s life was lost but says the tragedy affects him a bit more since it happened to a person with whom he shared the best moments of his professional career. The comments made by Shaq came on a Sunday that would have been the 42nd birthday for his former teammate.
O’Neal and Bryant spent eight seasons as teammates for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996 to 2004. The pair often clashed while playing together despite the enormous success the Lakers enjoyed with the two at the forefront. O’Neal was often critical of Bryant’s tendency to take more than his fair share of shots once the ball was in the shooting guard’s hands. In return, Bryant often complained that Shaq did not take care of his body in a manner that would allow him to play at a consistently high level.
The Lakers won three NBA championships and appeared in another while the duo was with the team. Both men agreed that the tension surrounding the team helped each of them and their teammates play their best basketball.
Shaq says a common myth in basketball is that players need to become good friends with teammates to ensure success. Shaq surmises it is only necessary for teammates to respect each other. Shaq says it hurts to know he will never be sure Kobe knew how much respect there was on his end.
The breakup for the dynamic duo of Los Angeles was not pretty in 2004 when Shaq left the Lakers for the Miami Heat. The two reconciled a few years later and even came together to share the All-Star Game MVP in 2009. O’Neal was congratulatory when Kobe passed him on the all-time scoring list for the NBA in 2012. In return, Kobe recorded the video tribute that was as part of Shaq’s jersey retirement ceremonies by the Lakers a year later.
Kobe Bryant was a guest on a podcast hosted by Shaquille O’Neal in 2015. The two men spoke openly regarding their past differences and reminisced about the three championship runs they shared as teammates. Bryant was also a speaker at the ceremony to unveil a statue of Shaq outside the Los Angeles Staples Center. The two were together again in 2017 when Shaq interviewed Kobe for TNT’s Player’s Only program.
When the Lakers traded Shaquille O’Neal in 2004, he accused Kobe of playing a role in the Lakers’ decision to get rid of him. The owner of the team at the time, the late Jerry Buss, always maintained Kobe played no role in the Shaq trade. Buss says he was reluctant to pay Shaq a max deal due to concerns regarding how his game might decline once he was past his prime.
In recent years both men were not only more friendly towards each other, but each of them was in communication with the children of the other. Not long before Kobe lost his life in a helicopter crash, he communicated with Shaq’s son Shareef via text messages.
Shaq has a warning for anyone who may be holding a grudge against someone they genuinely respect. He says no one knows what tomorrow brings, so you should not allow petty disagreements to linger. He also says he regrets not talking to and hanging out with his teammate more than he did.