In advance of Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant's Celebration of Life memorial at the Staples Center, Shaquille O'Neal opened up to the New York Times about how he's "hurting" over the loss of his friend and former Los Angeles Lakers teammate. And now, fans are speaking out about O'Neal's emotional admission with some emotional words of their own.
"People who know me know I'm hurting," O'Neal, whose younger sister Ayesha Harrison-Jex passed away in October after battling cancer, told the NY Times in a piece that was published on Friday. "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."
In response to O'Neal's admission, many fans on social media expressed that they fully understood his pain, as the whole world is still reeling from the tragic loss of Kobe, Gianna, and seven others in the Jan. 26 helicopter crash.
"I watch shaq commentate on the basketball the last few weeks... he hast not been the same," one fan commented on PopCulture.com's Facebook. "He is very stoic and quiet. Not as animated. You can tell he is not in a good place emotionally."
"Personally, I'm so angry about this loss," another fan wrote, clearly identifying with O'Neal's pain.
"Let Shaq grieve his way about Kobe because we don't know the relationship he had with Kobe. They were teammates for many years and we don't know if they had spoken to each other or not," yet another fan wrote, addressing both O'Neal's admission and those who claimed he and Kobe did not have a close relationship. "Maybe they talked on the phone we don't know everything they did in their life. When they are not in tv we don't know what they do. Stop judging him and let him grieve his way. I'm a HUGE LAKERS fan and I love seeing KOBE play with them but I know GOD doesn't make any mistakes and [prayers] goes out to his family and the other people on the helicopter. MAY ALL OF THEM RIP."
In the days and weeks since Kobe and Gianna's deaths, O'Neal has opened up about just how difficult this loss has been for himself, the basketball community, and everyone who knew the NBA legend. O'Neal is expected to attend the Celebration of Life for both Kobe and Gianna, which will be held on Monday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.