Shaquille O'Neal's recent chat with the New York Times illuminated the NBA Hall of Famer's struggle with the loss of former teammate Kobe Bryant. While most know Shaq for his smile, jokes, and personality on television, his reaction after Bryant died in a helicopter crash has stuck with fans.
O'Neal fought back tears during the NBA on TNT special for Bryant and revealed his true feelings about the loss. The Times interview did much of the same, giving O'Neal an outlet to vent his thoughts and reveal how difficult it has been coping with the loss.
But one thing has been tougher than anything for Shaq according to Marc Stein with the Times. When asked if working so much and trying to talk about basketball were difficult following Bryant's death, O'Neal gave a surprising answer.
"No," Shaq told Stein. "Sleeping is."
This likely isn't a surprise for anybody who has lost a loved one or close friend. Sleeping isn't easy when thoughts come rushing in.
O'Neal is also lost his younger sister, Ayesha Harrison-Jex, in October after a battle with cancer.
"People who know me know I'm hurting," O'Neal told The New York Times. "In a million years, I never thought my younger sister would pass before me. And I never thought any of my teammates would go out before me — especially the way Kobe went out."
O'Neal also shared similar words when chatting with TODAY ahead of All-Star weekend. He admitted he didn't believe the news at first, but when it finally hit he was feeling it.
"It was very hard," O'Neal said. "I've never seen anything like this before. I was at the house the day it happened and my son brought me the thing. You know how the internet is. Stop playing with me, get out of my face with that right now. Just stop and then I got the calls. A guy who helped me become as big as I am, and we will always be forever linked."
O'Neal's son was also feeling the loss in the days after the tragic helicopter crash. He admitted he has cherished one thing Bryant sent him in the days since his passing: a text asking, "you good fam?"
"I look at it every day," Shareef said. "It's a special moment. It's crazy that three hours before that he texted me asking if I'm good. He was always checking in on me. I was literally going, I would've seen him that day because I was going to the same place he was going. It's crazy. It's still unbelievable."
Bryant's public memorial will be held at Staples Center on Monday, Feb. 24 at 12 p.m. ET.