Shaquille O’Neal, Dwyane Wade and More Mourn Kobe Bryant in Tearful NBA Pre-Game Special Tribute
The somber special, filmed on the court in the Staples Center, opened with some heartbreaking remarks by O'Neal, who openly cried while recalling his time with Bryant over the years.
The former Lakers star admitted that, when he first heard the news, "I didn't want to believe it."
"I haven't felt a pain that sharp in a while. I'm 47 years old. Lost two grandmothers, a [father], I lost a sister, and now I lost a little brother," O'Neal continued.
He recalled how, every time he was around Bryant's children, they called him Uncle Shaq, and that Bryant would do the same with O'Neal's children. And now, all he can think of is everything that he won't be able to share with Bryant in the future.
"We're not gonna be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony," O'Neal said, fighting back his tears. "I wish I could just say something to him again."
"It definitely changes me," O'Neal added. "I work more than the average guy, but I just have to take time… and do a better job of reaching out and calling people. Because you never know."
O'Neal previosly opened up about the pain he's been feeling during and episode of The BIG Podcast with Shaq, where he revealed how he's handled the news.
“[It was] sad enough, then you hear his daughter was with him,” he said, in part. "I haven’t eaten. I haven’t slept. I’m looking at all the tapes, but I’m sick right now."
During the hour-long special, Wade had trouble maintaining his composure while remembering his friendship with Bryant as well.
He recalled how, during his career, he would often face off against Bryant and the Lakers and it was sometimes hard to keep from looking at him like a hero.
"Every time we played against each other I had to act like I didn't care that I was playing against one of my idols," Wade explained. "I grew up wanting to be like him."
"Getting this news the other day, I think I've been in shock for two days and this is the first moment where it feels real," Wade added.
He also had a message for all those in Los Angeles and across the world mourning the loss in different ways.
"It's okay to be hurt. It's okay to cry… it's okay to have laughter and it's okay to get around people and… talk about moments and talk about memories."
Barkley, who previously released a statement regarding the loss, made his first public comments on Bryant's death, and explained, "I turned down every interview because, truth of the matter is I didn't know what to say."
"I didn't even have that kind of relationship with Kobe, but he was part of the fabric [of the sport and Los Angeles]…. He was like one of my kids," Barkley reflected. "But I feel so bad for everybody who lost somebody."
Later in the special, Jerry West joined the panel, and opened up about how the day Bryant died was "the saddest day of my life," and how losing a brother during the Korean War is the only thing that compares. He also reflected on how he felt like a father to Bryant when he was starting out in the NBA.
The former LA Lakers star and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died on Sunday morning following a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. According to the LA County Sheriff's Office, there were nine people on the helicopter -- a pilot and eight passengers. There were no survivors.
"I’m Not Ready but here I go. Man I sitting here trying to write something for this post but every time I try I begin crying again just thinking about you, niece Gigi and the friendship/bond/brotherhood we had!" James wrote, in part. "I literally just heard your voice Sunday morning before I left Philly to head back to LA. Didn’t think for one bit in a million years that would be the last conversation we’d have. WTF!! I’m heartbroken and devastated my brother!!"
James' post is the latest in a wave of heartfelt condolences and tributes that have been posted to social media following the tragedy. See the video below for more on Bryant's celebrated life and legacy and the outpouring of grief and love for his memory.
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