Shaq Draws Big Laughs At Kobe Memorial With Hilarious Story

Leave it to Shaquille O'Neal to bring the laughs. On Feb. 24, O'Neal honored his former teammate and rival-turned-friend, Kobe Bryant, with a tribute fit for the legendary Laker. While clearly coming from the heart, Shaq's speech also included a hilarious anecdote that certainly was a welcome change of pace on such a dark day. If anything, it's that very story that perfectly captures Bryant's unbreakable Mamba mindset on the basketball court and why he was able to achieve such greatness.

During the "A Celebration of Life" event, Bryant's legacy was memorialized, as well as that of his 13-year-old daughter Gianna "Gigi" Bryant, who already was starting to follow in his basketball footsteps. Tragically, Gigi's budding basketball career was cut short when she and her father passed away in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 that claimed the lives of nine in total.

Read on to find out how exactly O'Neal was able to uplift the entire audience during the event, which also included a heartbreaking speech from Bryant's wife Vanessa, a tear-jerking tribute from Michael Jordan, and a poignant performance from none other than Beyoncé.

Kobe Bryant didn't believe there was no 'I' in 'team'

Throughout their time on the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal won three back-to-back championships. If there's anyone who can speak to his talent on the court, it's Shaq. While he admitted the idea of speaking at Bryant's memorial "pains me to my core," O'Neal pulled it together to honor his dear pal. "As we know, the Black Mamba's legacy will be more than just being one of the greatest basketball players of all time. And believe me, Kobe was truly a gifted and intelligent student of the game," O'Neal said. "I remember him saying, 'These guys are playing checkers, and I'm out here playing chess.' And I would say, 'I guess so, Kobe. I don't know how to play chess.'"

Specifically, O'Neal reflected on the day that Bryant gained his respect. It all went down when fellow teammates were complaining about Bryant's ball-hogging. "They said, 'Shaq, Kobe's not passing the ball.' I said, 'I'll talk to him,'" O'Neal recalled. So that's what he did: "I said, 'Kobe, there's no 'I' in 'team,' and Kobe said, 'I know, but there's an 'M-E' in that motherf***er.'"

As he shared that story, O'Neal had a giant grin on his face, as the camera panned to show the Staples Center crowd laughing and smiling along with him, including Bryant's wife Vanessa. Given Bryant's adamancy, O'Neal remembered then telling the team, "Just get the rebound, he's not passing." 

Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal's 'feud' pushed them to be great

Although they were often pitted against each other on the court, Shaquille O'Neal is the first to admit not everything was what it seemed. "Sometimes like immature kids, we argued, we fought, we bantered, or insulted each other with offhand remarks — our feud," he said. "But make no mistake, even when the folks thought we were on bad terms, when the cameras were turned off, he and I would throw a wink at each other and say, 'Let's go whoop some ass.'"

O'Neal made clear that the real truth was, "Kobe and I always maintained a deep respect and a love for one another." Still, he acknowledged it's because of their (friendly) rivalry that they pushed one another to succeed. "As many of you know, Kobe and I had a very complex relationship throughout the years. But not unlike another leadership duo, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, whose creative rivalry led to some of the greatest music of all time, Kobe and I pushed one another to play some of the greatest basketball of all time." Who would've guessed the Beatles and the Lakers had so much in common?

At the end of the day, these two achieved greatness together. "I am proud that no other team has accomplished what the three-peat Lakers have done since Shaq and the Kobe Lakers did it," O'Neal concluded.

Shaq promised to teach Kobe Bryant's daughters his moves

Not only will Shaquille O'Neal's speech make fans laugh, but it may even move them to tears. At one point, O'Neal said, "What filled Kobe's heart with the most pride was his role as a loving husband to Vanessa, Daddy to Gigi and Natalia [and] Bianka and baby Capri, and a loving son and brother. Kobe was a loyal friend and a true renaissance man."

Because of that commitment to his children, O'Neal plans to teach Bryant's daughters about their father's love of basketball. "I'll be sure to teach Natalia, Bianka, and baby Capri all your moves. And I promise I will not teach them my free throw techniques." (Yes, that last part resulted in more laughs from the crowd.)

Despite the major loss, there's one thought that's getting O'Neal through it — and warning, it'll probably give you chills. "For now, I take comfort in the fact [that] as we speak, Kobe and Gigi are holding hands, walking to the nearest basketball court," he shared. "Kobe will show her some new Mamba moves today and Gigi soon masters them. Kobe, you're heaven's MVP. I love you, my man. Until we meet again, rest in peace, Kobe." Beautifully said.