Tuesday night was supposed to be a celebration of Los Angeles basketball, with the Lakers and Clippers scheduled for a game, as arguably the two best teams in the NBA right now. Everything changed with the shocking death of Kobe Bryant. The NBA world has taken it very hard, and with that game postponed, Shaq and the NBA on TNT crew held a tribute to the fallen Lakers legend in its place.
Shaquille O'Neal was back in the Staples Center, where he and Kobe hung three straight banners in the rafters from 2000-2002. The two had a famous falling out that led to Shaq's departure from the team. He'd go on to win a fourth title with the Miami Heat, while Kobe remained in L.A. and took home two more titles as the team's main star.
The two had a famously rocky relationship, and while things seem to have gotten better in recent years, O'Neal admits that he didn't get to talk or spend time with Kobe as much as he now wishes he had. During the TNT show, he pledged to do better in that regard with the people in his life.
He said that the last time he spoke to Kobe in person was ahead of the guard's final NBA game. He told his former teammate to go out and score 50. Bryant, of course, outdid even those lofty expectations, and scored 60.
Video of a very emotional Shaq from Tuesday night:
“We up here, we work a lot. A lot of times, we take stuff for granted. 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 (NBA titles).' The fact that we're not going to be able to say 'If we would've stayed together we could've got 10.' Those were the things that you can't get back. "With the loss of my father and my sister... that’s the only thing I wish, that I could just say something to them again. Last time I talked to him was when we were here and I asked him to get 50 and he got 60. That’s the last time I spoke to him. And I just wish I could've...so it definitely changes me... I work a lot, you guys know that I do. I work probably more than the average guy, but now, I just have to take the time to say 'I love you.' Rick Fox finally called me to say 'Man, I love you.' (Brian) Shaw called me. So I'm going to try to do a better job of reaching out and just talking to people rather than just procrastinating, because you never know.”
In the wake of Kobe's passing, there has been plenty of discussion about how shocking it is, in large part because of his "larger than life" place in the world, even beyond just the sports world. O'Neal, standing at 7-foot-2 with his dozens of nicknames and aliases, and the many roles in inhabited during and since his NBA career, is the definition of "larger than life." And to see him this emotional is both refreshing, but also shows just how impactful this loss was. [
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 29, 2020
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