For many fans, the death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant was devastating but, as you can imagine, it was even harder for his family and friends, including sports broadcaster and former player Shaquille O’Neal. O’Neal and Bryant won found great success as teammates on the Los Angeles Lakers and, on the one-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s death, the former basketball player opened up about what he did that morning.
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant shared a bond many in sports could only dream of. During Bryant’s lifetime, the two went through their share of difficulties before making amends before Bryant’s death. A year after his former teammate's passing, it was only natural that the Inside the NBA host would be asked about how he marked the first-anniversary of the tragic incident. And when asked, O'Neal revealed that the first thing he did was reach out to Bryant’s parents:
I'm sort of a tough cookie, but I was more worried about [Kobe's] parents. So, I called them, made sure they were right. We didn't talk long, just, 'Love you guys, if you ever need me, I'm here.
When further discussing the day with Entertainment Tonight, Shaquille O’Neal went on to say that his main concern was only for Kobe Bryant's family, particularly his widow, Vanessa and their three daughters. O'Neal related his decision to reach out to Bryant's parents to his own status as a "mama's boy":
Look, I'm 48. I've been through a lot, I've seen a lot. So, I was more worried about his mom. I'm a mama's boy, so that's the first thing I did when I woke up; called his mom and just let her know that I love her… It was a tough day for the country, but for Vanessa and the kids, and for Kobe's parents, his brother and sisters, it was a tougher day. So, I just wanted to make sure that they were OK.
Through his actions, Shaquille O’Neal definitely showed how compassionate and thoughtful he is, especially when it comes to family. O’Neal’s heartfelt sentiment came on the heels of tributes from Jimmy Fallon and others on the first anniversary of Bryant’s sudden death.
As previously mentioned, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant dominated the NBA for a number of years as members of the Los Angeles Lakers. Under the partnership, the Lakers won three consecutive NBA Finals from 2000 to 2002, with O’Neal winning the NBA MVP Award each time. But during their time as teammates, a feud emerged between the two players, resulting in O’Neal being traded to the Miami Heat in 2004. The feud between the two continued until O’Neal retired from the NBA in 2011. O’Neal and Bryant’s relationship were mended in the years leading up to Bryant’s death, and O’Neal would ultimately give a passionate speech at Bryant's public memorial in 2020.
His decision to reach out to Kobe Bryant's family just shows how deeply connected Shaquille O’Neal is with the late NBA legend. It's always good to check on friends and family when they're experiencing a hard time, and that's especially true in the times we're living in right now.