LOS ANGELES - Shaquille O’Neal expressed deep sadness over the death of Kobe Bryant on Monday during an episode of his show “The Big Podcast With Shaq.”
“I’m not doing well,” O’Neal said. “I’m sick.”
Like many, O’Neal said he was in disbelief when he heard Bryant had been killed along with Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter and seven other people in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday.
“You know how the internet hoax and all that... I figured somebody was just playing around,” O’Neal said. “I didn’t want to believe it and then everyone is calling me asking me, ‘Is this true?’”
O’Neal revealed he’d already been struggling to cope with the recent death of his younger sister. Now, he’s back in the same boat mourning the loss of his former teammate.
“You guys told me when I came in the other day that I looked like I needed some rest and I haven’t been sleeping after Ayesha’s death,” O’Neal said to his co-hosts. “Now I got to go back to my not sleeping and not eating, not really functioning and it just hurts you know it’s hard to believe.”
The four-time NBA champion said he had been in touch with the Bryant family and offered his condolences.
“My heart goes out to Vanessa because she lost two. She lost her beautiful princess Gigi who was born on the same day as my 13-year-old and that’s what really hurts,” O’Neal said.
FILE: Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant (L) and Shaquille O'Neal (R) celebrate in the locker room after game four of the NBA Finals against the New Jersey Nets at Continental Airlines Arena 12 June 2002 in East Rutherford, NJ. (Photo by JEFF HAYNES/AFP via Getty Images)
Bryant and O’Neal played together on the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996 to 2004, winning three consecutive championships. O’Neal said despite media reports, the two had nothing but love for each other.
“All the stuff that was documented between us, there was never a dislike. Listen this is what brothers do. I have a younger brother we fight all the time but I love him. And I love Kobe Bryant. I’m the first to say I got four rings and I couldn’t have gotten three without him.”
While O’Neal said the two grew closer over the years, he regrets not calling Bryant more frequently.
“I wish we would’ve communicated more," O’Neal said. "We still are the best duo ever created. That’s not going to change, but I wish we were 60 and 70 in the old folks home and we could talk about it."