Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, on Sunday. He is survived by wife and their three other children: Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
Fellow basketballer, O’Neal, was shocked to hear the sad news, sharing how it triggered the same awful emotions ignited by the October death of his sister, Ayesha, from cancer.
“I’m not doing well. I’m sick,” O’Neal said during his podcast, The BIG Podcast with Shaq. “I’m just getting over the death of my sister. You guys told me the other day when I came in that I looked like I needed some rest.”
“I haven't been sleeping after Ayesha's death because [I’m] just not thinking about the good times, but thinking about the times when I could have [done] something or I could have done something different or I could have loved her more or I could have showed her more support,” he continued. “And, the same thing hit when I found out this news.”
O’Neal added that when his son, Greg, showed him a news article about Bryant’s accident, while he was working out with his other son, Shaqir, he didn’t believe it could be true.
“I yelled at Greg, I said, ‘Yo, man, get that s**t out of my face. Get that out my face,’ because you know about all the internet hoaxes and all that,” he said. “I figured someone was just playing around. I didn’t want to believe it.”
The reality of the devastating situation started to dawn on him as “everybody” started calling asking whether it was true.
“[It was] sad enough, then you hear his daughter was with him,” he said. “I haven’t eaten. I haven’t slept. I’m looking at all the tapes, but I’m sick right now.”
“This one’s gonna hurt for a long, long time,” he continued. “I just wish he was here. I wish I could say something to him. My heart goes out to Vanessa because she lost two. I have a little brother, but I lost a brother yesterday.”
Although to the two athletes had feuded in the past, they remained close prior to Bryant’s death, and O’Neal said they were “brothers” who loved each other’s children.
In fact, according to an Instagram Story posted by O’Neal’s wife, Shaunie O'Neal, Bryant and Gianna watched the O’Neals’ 13-year-old daughter, Me’arah, play a basketball game just one day before they died. Bryant also checked up on O’Neal’s son, Shareef, to see how he was doing an hour prior to the crash.
The impact of Bryant’s death is already in motion for O’Neal, who shared that he had made amends with people following the news, in a bid to “delete my beef and confrontation clause.”
“I don’t want to do that anymore because, you never know. So yesterday I just called all the people I had discrepancies with and said, ‘Look man, I love you,’” he shared. “And, we didn’t talk much over the phone, but I just wish we did. We’re sort of similar guys -- family first, business and ‘I’ll see you when I see you.’ I have a lot of best friends, but I don’t do the mushy talking on the phone thing.”
O’Neal’s podcast came after he shared several tributes to Bryant on social media."There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of loosing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie," he wrote in one post. "I love you brother and you will be missed."
“My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board,” he added. “IM SICK RIGHT NOW!”