Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal posted a heartbreaking tribute for his friend and former teammate Kobe Bryant following the news of his death on Sunday.
The former Los Angeles Laker said he was “sick.”
“There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through with this tragedy of loosing my niece Gigi & my brother ,” he wrote on Twitter.
Bryant, the retired NBA superstar, was among nine killed in a helicopter crash outside Los Angeles on Sunday. He was 41.
“Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man,” O’Neal said.
“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.”
The retired NBA player added Bryant’s daughter Gianna, or “Gigi,” was born on the same day has his younger daughter Me’Arah.
O’Neal, 47, and Bryant played for the Lakers between 1996 and 2004, becoming one of the most iconic duos in basketball.
The two went on to win three back-to-back championships together between 2000 to 2002, the Bleacher Report noted.
But the two also had an ongoing public feud for years. In 2004, after losing to Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals, the two parted ways.
Bryant stayed and played with the Lakers, while O’Neal went on to play with the Miami Heat.
The two exchanged petty conversations and critiqued each other’s games for years.
But in 2009, during an NBA All-Star Game, some say the feud ended — the two picked up trophies for co-MVPs during the game, the Washington Post reported.
“You told me to take the trophy home,” O’Neal said in 2009.
“I took it home and gave it to Shareef. I realized then that I may have messed something up. Because a lot of times that our beef was going on, you know me, I’m the master of marketing. About 60 per cent of the time, I was just saying to keep it going.”
Many fans believed part of the Kobe-Shaq feud was a marketing campaign.
“I was an a**hole to this guy , so I owe you an apology,” he said.
In 2018, the two sat in front of each other during a sit-down segment, reflecting on their beef.
O’Neal also paid tribute to his friend on Instagram.
“I miss you already brother. This is truly unbelievable. Everyone please keep the Bryant’s in your prayers,” he said.
View this post on Instagram
Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. We love our families. Whenever we got together I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gianna was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me’Arah. I miss you already brother. This is truly unbelievable. Everyone please keep the Bryant’s in your prayers. R.I.P
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