Ever since Shaquille O’Neal learned about his friend and former teammate Kobe Bryant’s death, he can’t stop thinking about the tragic loss. “I have been watching old highlights and just trying to reminisce,” the 47-year-old said on a special episode of “The BIG Podcast With Shaq” on Monday, January 27. “I miss him.”
The NBA star revealed he has not been “eating, sleeping or functioning” ever since he learned that Bryant and his daughter Gianna, 13, were among the nine victims of a helicopter crash which occurred in Calabasas, California, on Sunday, January 26. “It hurts. It’s just hard to believe,” he said. “I am not doing well. I am sick.”
When his phone started ringing on Sunday, O’Neal was hoping it was a big misunderstanding. “I figured someone was playing around,” he confessed. “I didn’t want to believe it. Everyone is calling me — ‘Is it true?’ So, I am like, it must not be a hoax because now the whole world knows this information. Now, I am praying, ‘Please don’t be true, please don’t be true.’ I am watching, and you get the confirmation and sad enough, you hear his daughter was with him. I am sick right now.”
Despite their relationship being tense at times — the two fought after O’Neal left the Lakers in 2004 — they had each other’s backs at the end of the day. “All the stuff that is documented between us, it was never a dislike,” the New Jersey native explained about their previous feud. “It’s just — listen, it’s what brothers do. I have a younger brother, we fight all the time, but guess what? I love him. You know, I love Kobe Bryant. I’m the first to say, ‘Hey, I got four rings, and I know I couldn’t have gotten three without him.”
O’Neal revealed he wished he “would have communicated more” with Bryant before his untimely death but noted “that is just how we are.” Following the accident, O’Neal reached out to Bryant’s wife, Vanessa Bryant. “My heart goes out to Vanessa,” he shared. “She lost her beautiful Gigi, who was born on the same day as my 13-year-old — that is what really hurts. Stuff like this always hurts.”
“I have a little brother, but I really lost a brother yesterday,” O’Neal concluded. “This one is going to hurt a long, long time. I wish he was here. It’s probably going to hit me when I go to the Staples Center tomorrow.”
We are thinking of O’Neal and everyone during this tough time.
For access to all our exclusive celebrity videos and interviews – Subscribe on YouTube!