“There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice [SIC] Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed,” the 47-year-old tweeted alongside four photos that showed that pair embracing on the court and laughing together during a photo shoot and interview. “My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW.”
As previously reported, the NBA legend, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, whose nickname is Gigi, were killed on Sunday morning when the private helicopter they were traveling in crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, California.
Kobe and his daughter, who was an aspiring basketball player, were on their way to his Mamba Sports Academy in nearby Thousand Oaks for practice when the crash happened.
NBC News reported that one of Gianna’s teammates, the teammate’s parent and the pilot were also killed in the fiery crash that sparked a brushfire and made it difficult for first responders to reach the site.
Shaq and Kobe, who retired from the NBA in 2016, played together for the Lakers from 1996 to 2004, winning three consecutive NBA championships. The pair feuded when O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004, with Shaq claiming that Kobe “could have spoken up” to keep him on the team, but “he didn’t say anything.”
They subsequently refused to refer to each other by name while talking to the media but in January 2006 the pair shook hands and hugged before tip-off.
Kobe told the Washington Post at the time that the thaw happened when O’Neal approached him while he was stretching before the game and congratulated him on the birth of his daughter Natalia and the impending birth of his second daughter, Gianna. “It made me feel good,” he said, adding that he was surprised by O’Neal’s gesture.
In 2008, O’Neal claimed that the feud between them was simply a PR move.
“We helped you hype it up. I know what I’m doing, brother,” he said. “I’m the smartest player in the world.”
In 2017, Bryant was in attendance when O’Neal was honored by the Lakers with a statue outside the Staples Center in L.A. Shaq later said it “meant a lot to him.” A pic of the pair laughing together at the ceremony was one of the images O’Neal shared in his tribute to Kobe on Sunday.
Kobe leaves behind wife Vanessa Bryant, who he wed in 2001, and daughters Natalia, 17, Bianca, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
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