SAN ANTONIO – Hours after the entire NBA community learned that Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, had died, many sent their condolences to Popovich and his family.
NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal said his love for the Popovich family goes beyond the game of basketball.
On Wednesday night, as the "NBA on TNT" crew of Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Shaq mourned the loss of Erin Popovich, O’Neal said, “I love Pop and his family for a different reason.”
During a live segment, O’Neal shared the story of his father immediately calling him after Shaq had engaged in an altercation with Popovich during a game.
Shaq said his father, a military man like Popovich, told him, "Don’t you ever disrespect Pop again.” He then shared the story to Shaq of how the Spurs head coach had helped his family during hard times.
"I was in San Antonio in 1989 and I couldn’t afford a pair of 18-19 shoes. My father drove over to the Spurs, and (he) and Pop hit it off right away,” Shaq said. “Pop gave him a couple pair of shoes (and) my father brought them back to the house."
((SCROLL TO THE 1:55 MARK FOR SHAQ'S STORY. WATCH THE VIDEO BY CLICKING HERE OR THE LINK BELOW.))
"There's nothing you can really say. It's a tough situation." The TNT crew mourns the loss of Erin Popovich, the wife of Spurs head coach, Gregg Popovich.Posted by NBA on TNT on Wednesday, April 18, 2018
"Pop, I’m praying for you, brother. I’m sorry you’re going through this and we love you," Shaq said.
During that time, Popovich was the lead assistant coach with the Spurs, under Larry Brown, and Shaq attended Robert G. Cole High School in San Antonio.
O'Neal was a student-athlete at Cole for two years and led his team to a state championship during his senior year.
Since the San Antonio Spurs released the heartbreaking news of Erin Popovich's death, NBA legends, celebrities and current professional athletes have sent their prayers and condolences to Popovich and his family.
The Spurs take on the Golden State Warriors for Game 3 of the first-round playoffs at 8:30 p.m. Thursday at the AT&T Center.