O’Neal and Bryant publicly reconciled years later, but their angst towards one another likely stopped them from winning upwards of five or six championships together.
Following the tragic passing of Bryant on January 26, O’Neal was very open about how it affected him. His willingness to speak so freely about the sadness he was feeling was appreciated by everybody, but added to the heartbreak of the situation as well.
While discussing his relationship with Bryant, O’Neal said he wishes he had spoken with him more frequently after their reconciliation, via “Sports Like a Boss” with Holly McPeak and Anne Marie Anderson:
“The reminder is.. that it makes me get into wish mode… Cuz listen, we respected each other. We’re friends. We’re not call everyday friends, but I wish that I had talk to him more, I wish I could’ve said ‘hey, how you doing’, I wish I could’ve said ‘hey, you know the Hall of Fame thing is coming up. You know you gonna be on that list’”
“I won’t even watch the hall of fame ceremony this year. 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 has said on multiple occasions that he would simply feel too sad if he tried to watch or attend Bryant’s induction and perhaps a part of it stems from his wish that they had been closer.
All sports fans witnessed them sit down and reconcile. However, fans never see what goes on behind closed doors and while O’Neal and Bryant were friends, it’s understandable that they wished they had a better relationship.