Los Angeles Lakers icon Shaquille O’Neal will always be connected to the late great Kobe Bryant.
The two won three championships together, created countless headlines and finally managed to see eye to eye as they matured as adults.
Now, with Bryant’s passing, the only thing O’Neal regrets is that he will never again be able to speak to his former teammate and longtime friend.
O’Neal expressed his regret through his tears when he appeared on NBA on TNT on Tuesday night.
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 29, 2020
“My other nephew comes in crying and he shows me his phone,” O’Neal said when he recounted the moment he heard the terrible news. “I snapped at him and I said, ‘Man get that out my face. Get that away from me.’ We live in a world where anything be can photoshopped, anything can hoaxed. I didn’t want to believe it.”
O’Neal went on to list the many loved ones he has lost in recent years, adding that he lost “a little brother” in Bryant.
O’Neal then explained the hurt he felt when learning that Bryant’s daughter, Gianna, had also been killed in the helicopter crash.
“And then the final blow,” he said. “His lovely daughter was with him on the helicopter. Every time I saw his lovely wife and his kids, same thing I do with Kenny’s [Smith] kids and D. Wade’s (Dwyane Wade) kids, ‘Hi, my name is uncle Shaq.’ I don’t know if they know me as a basketball player, it doesn’t matter, ‘Hi, I’m uncle Shaq.’ I try to make them laugh.
“He would do the same thing. Shareef [O’Neal] called me, devastated and said, ‘Kobe just texted me to check and see how I was doing.’ He used to do that from time to time.”
Finally, O’Neal spoke about how he wished he had expressed his love for Bryant more.
“It just makes me think, in life, sometimes instead of do,” he then had to break off his thought to compose himself. Co-host Ernie Johnson began to ask Wade a question to give O’Neal a moment, but the legendary big man managed to start talking again through the pain. “We up here, we work a lot. And I think a lot of times we take stuff for granted. Like I don’t talk to you guys as much as I need to. The fact that we’re not going to be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony. We’re not going to be able to say, ‘Ha, I got five, you got four.’ The fact that we’re not going to be able to say, ‘If we had stayed together we could have gotten 10.’ Those are the things that you can’t get back. And with the loss of my father, my sister and my friend, that’s the only thing I wish, that I could just say something to him again.
“Last time time I talked to him was when we were here and I asked him to get 50 and he got 60.”
It’s hard to watch O’Neal speak so passionately about those who he has loved and lost in recent years. His desire to speak through the tears only makes his message more important.
Hopefully O’Neal’s words encourages his fans out there to pick up the phone and reach out to their loved ones.
While O’Neal will never be able to speak to his old friend again, he will certainly be able to carry on his legacy.