NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal did not hold back his tears when he recalled his relationship with his late teammate Kobe Bryant, who perished in a helicopter crash on Sunday in Los Angeles (Monday in Manila).
O'Neal and Bryant won three championships with the Los Angeles Lakers before their often-tumultuous relationship deteriorated and O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004.
They eventually repaired their relationship, and O'Neal was at the Staples Center when Bryant played his last game for the Lakers at the end of the 2016 NBA season.
In an emotional episode of Inside the NBA, O'Neal joined other basketball greats in memorializing Bryant.
"I haven't felt a pain that sharp in a while," said O'Neal, who was informed of Bryant's death by one of his nephews and refused to believe it immediately.
"I didn't wanna believe it," he said. "And then, the final blow. His lovely daughter was with him on the helicopter."
Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also perished in the crash along with seven others. Their bodies were recovered from the wreck in Calabasas this morning.
The tragedy had a profound impact on O'Neal, who deeply regretted all the things he did not get to say for Bryant. According to the big man, the last time they spoke was in Bryant's farewell game, "when I asked him to get 50 (points) and he got 60."
"The fact that we're not gonna be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony. We're not gonna be able to say, 'I got five, you got four.' The fact that we're not gonna be able to say, 'If we would've stayed together, we could've got 10.' Those are the things you can't get back," O'Neal said as he wept openly.
"I just really have to now take time," he said. "I'm gonna try to do a better job of reaching out and talking to the people… Life is too short."
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