Shaquille O'Neal still can't believe Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash with his daughter Gianna and seven other people nearly one year ago (Jan. 26). The four-time NBA Champion talked about Bryant on NBC News' 3rd Hour of TODAY on Thursday morning and said he is "gone too soon." O'Neal and Bryant played together for eight years as members of the Los Angeles Lakers.
"You know, we had a very enigmatic relationship," O'Neal said. "That’s why I would say, we were the most dominant one, two points ever created. Enigmatic, controversial, having fun, and there never will be another like us. You know, it's still kind of hard. Redid my living room, redid my gym. His picture is up on the wall. He was already a legend. He was already a guy that will never be forgotten, but he was definitely, definitely gone too soon. And I didn't realize it have a year until you just said something."
The hosts of TODAY then asked O'Neal if he has checked in on Bryant's wife Vanessa. "I check on her on social media," he said. "She seems to be in great spirits. His daughters are growing up and they’re turning into gorgeous young ladies, and I just watch them from afar. I visited with his parents when I was in Vegas, and, you know, they're handling it very, very well. They're tough. His mom and dad are wonderful, perfect people. I'm glad I got to spend time with them in Las Vegas."
O'Neal and Bryant didn't get along at first. But once they were able to get things going, the duo was nearly unstoppable, leading the Lakers to three consecutive NBA titles (2000-2002). O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004 and helped the team win a title in 2006. He would stay with the Heat until 2008 and then played one season with the Phoenix Suns. O'Neal would then play for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009 and then play for the Boston Celtics in 2010. O'Neal would retire from the NBA in 2011.
Bryant remained with the Lakers until retiring in 2016. After O'Neal was traded, Bryant led the Lakers to NBA championships in 2009 and 2010. He was named NBA Finals MVP both years and won the MVP award in 2008.