Shaquille O’Neal still has regrets and gets emotional when talking about Kobe Bryant, seven months after the death of his former Los Angeles Lakers teammate.
“I don’t want to see anybody go out like that and never to be able to talk to him again,” O’Neal said Monday to USA Today Sports about Bryant, who would have turned 42 on Sunday. “The thing that hurt me was all the stuff that I wanted to say, I hadn’t said it. I never said it.”
Bryant died Jan. 26 alongside his 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a California helicopter crash.
Kobe and O’Neal won NBA three consecutive championships together with the Lakers from 2000-02, but their personalities often clashed, leading to O’Neal’s departure in 2004. They had reconciled much of their differences in the years preceding Bryant’s death, but Shaq added that some things still were left unsaid between them.
“You never know what stuff is going to happen. So you shouldn’t let stuff linger,” said O’Neal, who gave a tearful eulogy at Bryant’s memorial service in February. “Were we best friends? No. Did we respect the hell out of each other? 1,000%. Do I wish we could’ve talked every day and hung out every day. Yes.
“There’s a myth that you have to be best friends to win championships. We only have to have one thing, and that’s respect… He knows I need him. I’m damn sure he knows he needs me. I was just hurt I would never be able to tell him anything ever again.”
On Sunday’s pregame show for TNT, O’Neal revealed that he has a painting hanging in his living room sent to him by an artist depicting the two Hall of Famers together as older men.
“Old me and old Kobe,” said O’Neal, who signed a multi-year contract extension Monday with Turner Sports. “I got three or four or five wishes. I wish my sister was still here, I wish my father was still here, but I wish this could be us in the future, us talking about good old times, my grandson doing this, my grandson vs. your grandson.
“Of course it will never be,” he added. “But I just wish that moment could be true.”