Seven months on from his tragic death, Shaquille O’Neal has reflected on his friendship with late basketball legend Kobe Bryant.
As tributes for the LA Lakers legend flooded in ahead of his 42nd birthday, O’Neal once again spoke of his regrets following the death of his friend and former teammate, both of whom dominated the courts from 1996 to 2004.
“I don’t want to see anybody go out like that and never to be able to talk to him again,” O’Neal told USA TODAY Sports about Bryant. “The thing that hurt me was all the stuff that I wanted to say, I hadn’t said it. I never said it.”
While Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant made no secret of their highly-publicised clashes over the years, the pair eventually formed an amicable friendship, which Shaq has previously credited to their children.
“You never know what stuff is going to happen. So you shouldn’t let stuff linger,” said O’Neal, who gave an emotional eulogy at Bryant’s televised memorial 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.”
On Sunday, during a pregame show for TNT, O’Neal revealed that he has a painting that was sent to him by an artist which showed the two Hall of Famers together as older men.
“Old me and old Kobe,” O’Neal said. “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.”
Kobe Bryant died on January 26th in a helicopter accident outside Calabasas, California that also claimed the lives of eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna.
O’Neal also penned an emotional tribute to the sports star following the shock news of his death, saying on Instagram alongside a series of pictures of him and Bryant following the news of his death at the beginning of the year.
“There are no words to express the pain I’m going through right now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my niece Gigi & my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie.”