Tears streamed down Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal‘s face Tuesday night as the NBA legend poured his heart out in an emotional discussion about the death of his former teammate, rival and friend, Kobe Bryant.
“I lost a little brother,” O’Neal said during a broadcast from the Staples Centre, where he and Bryant once led the Los Angeles Lakers to three straight NBA championships from 2000-2002. It was a highly charged era in Lakers history, when O’Neal and Bryant would occasionally feud with one another as they pushed the team to great heights.
“Our names will be attached together for what we did,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal addressed Bryant’s death earlier this week in a tweet and a podcast, but Tuesday was his first time discussing it on camera.
O’Neal said he couldn’t believe the news when he first heard that Bryant had died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, but he realized it was true when friends started calling him about it.
“It was sort of like a triple stabbing to the heart,” he said, adding that the “final” blow was learning that Bryant’s daughter, Gianna, was also killed in the crash.
“It just makes me think that in life, sometimes instead of holding back certain things, we should just do,” he said, as tears started rolling down his cheeks.
Bryant and O’Neal played together until 2004, when O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat. They would carry on their relationship (and beef) for many years, and they appeared to settle into a more friendly attitude toward one another in recent times.
O’Neal briefly acknowledged the acrimonious parts of his relationship with Bryant, although he didn’t dwell on it.
“It definitely changes me.”
The 47-year-old listed off several difficult deaths he’s dealt with in recent years, including the loss of two grandmothers, his father and his younger sister, Ayesha Harrison-Jex, who died of cancer last October.
The NBA superstar turned commentator was particularly heartbroken that Bryant won’t be around to enjoy his likely induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame later this year.
O’Neal also admitted to working a little too much and not opening up more to the people around him, including Bryant, whom he suggested he had not spoken to in years.
“I’ma try to do a better job of just reaching out and just talking to the people, rather than always procrastinating,” he said. “Because you never know.”