Shaq: ‘I Won’t Even Watch’ Kobe Bryant Hall of Fame Induction

Kobe Bryant, left, and Shaquille O'Neal in 2001

Getty Kobe Bryant, left, and Shaquille O'Neal in 2001

In August, barring any change because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis, Lakers great Kobe Bryant will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, just seven months after his death in a tragic helicopter accident in Calabasas, California.

But Shaquille O’Neal, the player who is arguably the greatest teammate Bryant had in terms of talent and accomplishments, will not be in attendance. O’Neal was not only Bryant’s teammate, but he was also one of the fiercest opponents of two headliners in the Class of 2020, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett (who was also his teammate, briefly, in Boston).

O’Neal will not be going to Springfield, though. In fact, he won’t be watching.

“I won’t even watch the Hall of Fame ceremony this year,” O’Neal said on the “Like a Boss” podcast this week. “I don’t want to see pictures and videos of him. I don’t. Congratulations to Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, and all those guys but listen I never thought, I never thought something like this would ever happen.”

O’Neal, Bryant Clashed as Lakers Teammates

O’Neal and Bryant were together with the Lakers for eight seasons, three of which ended with championships. But they were also among the most hard-headed star teammates in league history, creating waves of drama each season as they clamored for more shots, credit, and attention than the other.

O’Neal was known for his subtle jabs at Bryant and his ability to get under Bryant’s skin. Bryant was more petulant and hot-headed. Their internal feuds split the Lakers locker room. spilled into the pubic repeatedly and became fodder for NBA fans globally. L.A. hung together with the two for years but eventually traded O’Neal to Miami in 2004.

The two never became pals after that but they have since mended fences.

“It ain’t the same,” O’Neal said. “We’ll always be connected whether people think we like each other or not. Doesn’t matter, we will always be connected, we were the most competitive, most enigmatic, most controversial, most dominant 1-2 punch ever created.”

Shaq on Kobe: ‘I Should Have Called Him’

O’Neal has been open about his sadness at Bryant’s death and about the regrets he’s had over the missed opportunities to fully repair his relationship.

He spoke at the February memorial service in Los Angeles for Bryant, his daughter Gianna and the seven other victims of the crash. O’Neal laughed when he remembered a story from his clashes with Bryant.

“I said, ‘Kobe, there’s no I in team,’” O’Neal said. “And Kobe said, ‘I know, but there’s an M-E in that motherf—er.’”

He recalled learning what happened to Bryant, the day after Lakers star LeBron James passed Bryant on the NBA’s all-time scoring list:

“I was working out with my son and one of my older sons came crying and he showed me the TMZ article. And I was like, ‘Bro, stop playing, don’t play like that.’ This was the day that LeBron had broke his record. I figured some wiseguy had tried to do something on the Internet to get people. I said, ‘I’m not even looking at that, stop playing.’ But my heart was going, ‘I hope this ain’t true.’”

Of course, it was true. And O’Neal clearly is still working through it.

“It hurt,” he said. “It hurt because, if you have something to say to somebody, say it. If you miss somebody, say it. If you had differences in the past, that’s the past, let it go. Me and him, we haven’t played together since 2000? And people still bring us up. I should have called him.”

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