Shaquille O’Neal pays deep respect to Kobe Bryant ahead of Lakers statue unveiling

Peter Dewey
4 Min Read

Los Angeles Lakers legend Shaquille O’Neal spoke out about the upcoming unveiling of Kobe Bryant’s statue at Star Plaza outside of Arena.

Bryant’s statue is set to be revealed on Thursday, Feb. 8, and Lakers will wear their Black Mamba uniforms during their game that night against the Denver Nuggets.

“Obviously it’s well deserved,” O’Neal said of Bryant’s statue. “I’m always bragging about how many rings I’ve got – definitely couldn’t have gotten the three that I’ve got without him.”

O’Neal went on to list some of his other Lakers teammates such as Robert Horry and Rick Fox who helped him and Bryant win three consecutive NBA titles.

The current NBA on TNT analyst also went on to share how every time he challenged Bryant, the late Lakers legend met the challenge. O’Neal referenced Bryant’s final game, when he scored 60 points against the Utah Jazz, as one of those moments.

“When I challenged him, he stepped up,” O’Neal said. “For example, last game, we were messing around. I said, ‘Hey man, I’m gonna need you to get 50.’ And he went out and got 60.”

O’Neal also spoke about the perceived “beef” he and Bryant had during their careers, downplaying how big it was. He simply said he and Bryant were “two alpha males” that were “challenging each other.”

“I’m honored to have played with him,” O’Neal continued. “I’m glad to have helped him win. And I’m glad he helped me win those championships. Listen, this is a no-brainer. You definitely gotta have a Magic Johnson statue, a Shaq statue, a Kobe statue. And I’m happy for him, his wife, his daughters. I’m happy for his mother, his father and his two sisters. So, but again, it’s a no-brainer. We knew he’s gon’ get his jerseys retired, and you knew it was gon’ be a Kobe statue.”

There are seven different Lakers legends that will have statues once Bryant’s is unveiled. He will be joining Elgin Baylor, O’Neal, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry West and Chick Hearn.

Bryant and O’Neal won three titles together with the Lakers and are one of the great duos in NBA history. O’Neal’s dominance in the paint and Bryant’s incredible shot-making ability made them nearly impossible to defend.

It’s great to see the Lakers honoring – and immortalizing – Bryant for his amazing contributions to the franchise. Unfortunately, the Lakers legend is no longer with us and won’t be able to see his statue outside of Arena.

During his playing career, Bryant averaged 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game while shooting 44.7 percent from the field and 32.9 percent from beyond the arc.

He will forever be one of the most important figures in Lakers history, as he led the team to tremendous success during his career, winning five titles with the franchise.

Bryant was a two-time NBA Finals MVP, 18-time All-Star and has been inducted into the Hall of Fame for his accomplishments during his basketball career.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.