Shaquille O'Neal has been reduced to tears on television after discussing his unthinkable pain over the death of Kobe Bryant.
Tributes to the NBA legend have been pouring in after a helicopter carrying him and eight other people crashed in Southern California on Sunday, killing all on board.
Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was also among those travelling on the helicopter at the time of the accident.
O'Neal won three NBA championships with Bryant at the Los Angeles Lakers as part of one of the most dominant teams in the history of the sport.
‘THEY HAD A DEAL’: Kobe's devastating pact with wife before death
Joining the 'NBA on TNT' crew on air on Tuesday, Shaq broke down discussing the death of his good friend.
"I haven't felt a pain that sharp in a while," Shaq said.
"The fact that we're not gonna be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony, we're not gonna be able to say, 'Haha, I got 5 (championships), you got 4,' the fact that we're not gonna be able to say, 'If we would've stayed together, we could've got 10' ... those were the things you can't get back."
O’Neal released a Twitter statement in the immediate aftermath of the news, mourning the loss of “my brother.”
On Tuesday, he broke down in tears on the TNT set as he, Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Dwyane Wade opened up about Bryant as they broadcast from the Lakers court at Staples Center.
“We’re up here and we work a lot,” O’Neal said.
“And I think a lot of times we take stuff for granted. I don’t talk to you guys as much as I need to. The fact that we’re not gonna be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony.
Watching Shaq completely heartbroken is soul crushing 💔— Jordan (@jordanpball) January 29, 2020
“We’re not gonna be able to say ‘ha I got five, you got four.’ The fact that we’re not gonna be able to say ‘if we would have stayed together, we could have got 10.’ Those are the things that you can’t get back.”
Shaq says he reached out to Bryant's wife Vanessa to offer his condolences for the family's loss.
He says the death of the couple's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, has also left him heartbroken.
"[Vanessa] lost her beautiful GiGi who was born on the same day as my 13-year-old daughter and that's what really hurts."
Even with his personal and professional ties to Bryant, O’Neal’s reaction to the news was like that of many of Bryant’s fans who were shocked by the news on Sunday — an urge to reach out to loved ones and not take for granted relationships that matter.
Shaq lost his sister Ayesha Harrison-Jex to cancer just last year and admitted he's still finding it hard to adjust to life without her.
‘I wish I could just say something to him again’
The four-time NBA champion said he felt deep regret that he hadn't taken more time to speak with Bryant while he was alive.
"I’m just getting over the death of my sister. You guys told me the other day when I came in, I looked like I needed some rest. And I haven’t been sleeping after Ayesha’s death."
“With the loss of my father, my sister — that’s the only thing I wish I could just say something to him again,” O’Neal continued through tears.
“The last time I talked to him was when we were here, and I asked him to get 50. And he got 60. That’s the last time I spoke to him.”
O’Neal was referring to Bryant’s last game that saw him score 60 points against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center in April, 2016.
O’Neal reminisced about the early days with the Lakers when Bryant joined the team as a 17-year-old rookie and Shaq signed that same summer as a free agent from the Orlando Magic.
Kobe had big plans from the start. pic.twitter.com/MqFdyPVQnj— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) January 29, 2020
“Now when Kobe came, I kind of sat him down and said ‘what do you want to be?’” O’Neal continued.
“At 17, he said ‘I’m gonna be be the best player in the world. And off the court I’m gonna be bigger than Will Smith.’
“And you know me. I’m like ‘OK, all right. Slow down, slow down.’”
Six seasons later, O’Neal and Bryant had led the Lakers to three straight championships as one of the most iconic tandems in the history of the game.
“I truly believe we will be the most dominant big-little one-two punch ever,” O’Neal said.