NBA

Shaquille O’Neal reflects on Kobe Bryant’s death: ‘He was so much more than an athlete’

Shaquille O’Neal said there were “no words” that could describe the tragedy and the pain he felt after learning about Kobe Bryant’s death.

O’Neal joined the Lakers in 1996, the same year the franchise drafted Bryant. The two were teammates until 2004 when O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat following a dispute with the team. In their time together, the pair won three NBA Championships.

“There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through with this tragedy of losing my niece Gigi and my brother Kobe. I love you and you will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. I’m sick right now,” O’Neal wrote on Twitter. “Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gigi was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me’Arah.”

O’Neal and Bryant’s relationship had some tenuous moments as teammates, but they reconciled in their post-NBA careers. After Bryant’s final game in 2016, O’Neal called Bryant “the greatest Laker ever.”

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