Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant's sudden death has taken the sports world by shock. The 41-year-old died in a tragic helicopter crash on Sunday night (Monday IST) in Calabasas near Los Angeles. Los Angeles Count Sheriff reported that Bryant along with his daughter Gianna and seven other people on-board lost their lives in the crash.
Ever since the news broke out, social media has flooded with tributes for the basketball legend. Kobe Bryant's long-time teammate Shaquille O'Neal also took to Twitter to express his grief, posting a long message to the Bryant family. Shaquille O'Neal shared two heartfelt posts on Twitter where he hailed Kobe Bryant for his professionalism and even called him his 'brother'.
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 pic.twitter.com/pigHywq3c1— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 26, 2020
Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. 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. pic.twitter.com/BHBPN5Wq8V— SHAQ (@SHAQ) January 26, 2020
While the duo remained good friends since retirement, their on-court rivalry from the early 2000s was well documented and talked about. Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were part of the Lakers side that dominated the NBA in the late-1990s and early-2000s. The duo won three consecutive NBA Championships from 2001-2003 and also made a final appearance in 2004. Shaquille O'Neal notably won the NBA Finals MVP in each of the three championship wins.
However, multiple reports suggested that Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal frequently clashed over personal differences and their respective roles in the side. Their final two seasons together at Lakers were plagued with insults hurled at one another in the media, as well as other disagreements. Lakers head coach Phil Jackson published a book in 2004, titled The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul, reflecting on the troubles Bryant and O'Neal had during their last season together. The feud eventually resulted in Shaquille O'Neal being traded to Miami Heat in 2004. Kobe Bryant helped Lakers win two more NBA Championships in 2008 and 2009, where he won the NBA Finals MVP each time.
Despite not being on the same side anymore, their feud continued which eventually resorted with the duo avoiding each other's names during media interviews. However, post-retirement, Bryant and O'Neal publicly buried the hatchet in Player's Only chat on TNT. O'Neal even offered an apology to Bryant during the conversation.
It’s all good bro, when I saw the interview, I thought you were talking about Dwite, is that how u spell his name lol— SHAQ (@SHAQ) August 28, 2019
While the duo were part of a very publicised feud during their playing careers, they have repeatedly hailed each other for their performances and have rightly mended their relationship after retiring. The departed Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal will always be remembered as one of the best duos in NBA history.