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The selection of Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant occurred during the third and final presentation of the NBA 75 squad. Shaquille O’Neal, a long-time teammate, answered with a touching and heartfelt reminiscence that surely caused dust to fly in many rooms around the nation.
Bryant died in a helicopter accident in Los Angeles in January 2020, and many in the NBA are still mourning his death. When the Lakers transferred Shaq to the Miami Heat in 2004, O’Neal and Bryant had a tumultuous breakup, but the two subsequently reunited. O’Neal expressed his grief at Bryant’s passing on multiple occasions.
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant have been teammates on the court since 1996.
During the unveiling of the NBA’s 75th-anniversary squad, Shaquille O’Neal (L) became upset as he remembered the late Kobe Bryant. | Luc Nicholson/AFP via Getty Images
On July 11, 1996, the Lakers traded veteran center Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for the rights to Kobe Bryant, a high school basketball sensation from the Philadelphia region. Bryant was selected with the 13th overall selection in the 1996 NBA Draft by Charlotte. However, in order to replace All-Star center Alonzo Mourning, who was traded to the Miami Heat the previous year, the Hornets exchanged Bryant’s rights for Divac.
A week after the deal, the Lakers signed Shaquille O’Neal, an All-NBA performer three times in his four seasons with the Orlando Magic.
Growing difficulties arose in the cooperation. Bryant spent his first two NBA seasons as a backup. In the 1998 Western Conference Finals, the Lakers were swept by the Utah Jazz, and they were defeated again in 1999. In the conference semifinals, the San Antonio Spurs swept the Los Angeles Lakers.
The arrival of coach Phil Jackson in 1999 sparked a dynasty, with the Lakers winning three consecutive NBA titles between 2000 and 2002 behind their powerful youthful pair.
The Lakers sent off O’Neal after the Detroit Pistons surprised the star-studded LA team in the 2004 NBA Finals, breaking up one of the NBA’s greatest duos.
Shaquille O’Neal’s heartfelt tribute to his 75th-anniversary teammate
Shaquille O’Neal, a former teammate, recalled a chat he had with then-Lakers general manager Jerry West regarding Kobe Bryant.
Jerry remarked to O’Neal, “Look, I’m getting a kid named Kobe Bryant, and you guys are going to win several championships,” according to O’Neal.
The large guy was taken aback by Bryant’s desire:
“How thrilled he was, how he wanted to be excellent from the start.” We had to take it easy on him for a while. My favorite thing about Kobe was that he wouldn’t start warmups or shootaround on time, preferring instead to practice on his skills in the corner.
“I recall the turning point in Kobe’s career. We were playing at Utah, and the Utes were destroying us in the playoffs. His final three shots were all airballs, and he was shooting with his head down. ‘You know what?’ I remember putting my arm around him and saying. Don’t be concerned, young man. People will dread you shooting the last shot one day.’”
Shaquille O’Neal is a basketball player who plays for the Los Angeles Lakers.
While O’Neal and Bryant had their disagreements, he said he wouldn’t alter a thing about their time together.
Kobe Bryant’s 20-year career has been filled with incredible moments.
Despite struggling with injuries late in his career, Kobe Bryant finished his NBA career with a 60-point performance in his last game. He also ranks fourth all-time in scoring with 33,643 points. He is one of just seven NBA players to reach the 30,000-point mark.
Bryant surpassed O’Neal’s championship total of 5–4 by guiding the Lakers to back-to-back championships in 2009 and 2010. With 15 All-NBA honors in his career, he is tied for second all-time. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Tim Duncan both have similar totals. Only LeBron James has more, with 17.
Two scoring crowns, two Finals MVP honors, 12 All-Defensive choices, and the 2007–08 MVP Award were added to Bryant’s career.
It was a foregone conclusion that Kobe Bryant’s announcement, whenever it came, would be emotional. His passing has left a void in the NBA community. The fact that the event aired on TNT alongside Shaquille O’Neal added to the intensity of the emotions. It was a heartfelt moment. One that reminded us that, above all else, the game will always be about the people.
Basketball Reference provided the statistics.
‘Get it off the rebound if I miss,’ Kobe Bryant said after refusing to pass to Shaquille O’Neal despite his repeated demands for the ball.