Shaq Vows To Make Life Change After Kobe Bryant's Death

Kobe Bryant's former Los Angeles Lakers teammate, Shaquille O'Neal, pledged to change his life after the heartbreaking helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others on Jan. 26, 2020. Shaq took to The Big Podcast With Shaq to talk about the fragility of life and the way forward after tragedy.

"You don't really know how long you have left," O'Neal said. "I'm all about being hard and all that, but ... I'm going to have to delete my beef and my confrontation clause. I don't want to do that anymore."

O'Neal and Bryant led the Lakers to three consecutive championships between 2000 and 2002, but the two superstars brought the heat both on and off the court, resulting in one of the most notorious NBA feuds of all time. Their drama reportedly prompted O'Neal's trade to the Miami Heat in 2004. Now, as O'Neal reflects upon his tumultuous past with Bryant, he has promised to cool his hot temper in the future. "I guess I'll just call all the people I've had discrepancies with and just say, 'Look, man, I love you.'"

"Our relationship was that of brothers..." O'Neal said. "All this stuff that is documented between us, it was never a dislike. This is what brothers do ... I love Kobe Bryant. I'm the first to say, 'Hey, I got four rings and I know I couldn't have got three without him.'"

Shaq and Kobe stirred up controversy as teammates

Kobe Bryant was drafted right out of high school in 1996 to suit up for the Los Angeles Lakers. Shaquille O'Neal was drafted in '92 but also joined the Lakers in '96. However, because of Bryant's rookie status, O'Neal supposedly told the press he wasn't "going to be babysitting" Bryant, laying the shaky foundation for their fraught relationship. Rumors also suggest O'Neal may have been jealous of Bryant's jersey sales.

According to Clutch Points, the feud truly gained traction during the 2000-01 campaign, when O'Neal allegedly showed up to training camp out of shape. O'Neal's lack of preparation reportedly drove the Lakers to shift its offensive focus to Bryant. "O'Neal grumbled throughout the year about his diminishing role ... he did not like the fact that Bryant had moved in on his territory to the point where he was almost an equal," said Clutch Points. Despite these underlying issues, one thing was clear, the duo made an undeniably powerful pair.

Time softened the competitive edge between the two NBA legends, who became close friends. On The Big Podcast With Shaq, O'Neal admitted that he'd been watching old footage from their time together on the hardwood. "I'm glad we became closer," he said. "But I just sit back and say what if?

Shaq took to Twitter to grieve Kobe Bryant's death

Shaquille O'Neal took to Twitter to share his grief and disbelief when he learned that Kobe Bryant, his daughter, Gianna, and seven others had lost their lives in a helicopter crash in the hills of Calabasas, Calif. "There's no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW," O'Neal tweeted.

"Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man," Shaq said. "That was what we had most in common. I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gigi was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me'Arah." In fact, just hours before the accident, Bryant sent a text message to O'Neal's son, Shareef, just to check in on the college hoops player. 

Kobe Bryant's death changed Shaq's outlook on life

During a television special honoring Kobe Bryant on TNT, Shaquille O'Neal spoke about the way this tragedy has changed his outlook toward the future. "I lost a little brother," Shaq said.

When his nephew broke the terrible news to him about Bryant, O'Neal initially thought it was a hoax news story. "I snapped at him. I said, 'Man, get that out of my face. Get it away from me." Then his phone started to ring and he eventually received confirmation. "I haven't felt a pain that sharp in a while."

After the segment, O'Neal led fans in a "Kobe" chant outside the Staples Center and concluded with a call to make changes in the future. Shaq acknowledged that his priorities need some fine-tuning. "In life, sometimes instead of holding back certain things, we should just do," he said, tears streaming down his face. He expressed sorrow over "the things you can't get back" — little moments that pass us by. "I just really have to now just take time to just call and say I love you ... I'm gonna try to do a better job of just reaching out and just talking to the people rather than always procrastinating because you never know."