Shaquille O’Neal grieves in emotional appearance: ‘I lost a little brother.’
LeBron James said he was “heartbroken and devastated.” Michael Jordan said he was “in shock over the tragic news.”
But one basketball player will forever be associated with Kobe Bryant, sometimes even mentioned in the same breath: his friend, rival, and former Los Angeles Lakers teammate, Shaquille O’Neal.
The two formed a Lakers duo that was dynamic, at times tense and widely acknowledged as one of the top tandems in basketball history, delivering three consecutive championships for the Lakers before O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat. The pair — who have their own Wikipedia entry called the “Shaq-Kobe feud” — eventually reconciled, to the point that O’Neal told Bryant’s daughters to call him “Uncle Shaq.”
In an emotional appearance on TNT on Tuesday, O’Neal shared that it felt like a “stabbing” in the heart when he learned that a helicopter crashed near Calabasas, Calif., on Sunday, killing Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other people.
“Haven’t felt the pain that sharp in a while,” O’Neal said, adding, “I lost a little brother.