The Los Angeles Lakers are honoring late legend Kobe Bryant on Thursday by finally unveiling his long-awaited statue outside of Crypto.coma Arena. One person certain to be in attendance at the unveiling is Bryant’s Hall of Fame teammate Shaquille O’Neal.
The pair won three championships together as the one-two punch of the Lakers organization in three straight seasons between 2000 and 2002.
Perhaps no relationship between a pair of teammates has been under a harsher microscope than O’Neal and Bryant. Stories have said that the two butted heads for nearly their entire tenure, as O’Neal was the established veteran being pushed by the young and hungry Bryant. The two squashed any beef after their playing days and prior to Bryant’s tragic passing in 2020.
Now, with Bryant’s statue ready to be unveiled, O’Neal spoke about what the Lakers legend meant to him as both a teammate and a person, as well as how deserving he is to be bestowed this honor, via NBA on TNT:
"I'm honored to have played with him… This is a no brainer… We knew he was going to get his jerseys retired you knew it was going to be a Kobe statue." 💯@SHAQ on the @Lakers unveiling Kobe's statue on 2/8/24 pic.twitter.com/4Vs3lOYPpp
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 7, 2024
O’Neal and Bryant’s friendship became a wholesome part of the Lakers organization in the years after their playing days were done. O’Neal supported Bryant in his final game, when the Lakers legend dropped 60 points, and was in attendance for nearly every big moment after that, including his memorial service and Hall of Fame induction.
The two superstars will forever be linked in Lakers history for their time as a championship-winning duo. And Bryant’s statue unveiling is another chance for O’Neal to show respect for the person that helped him win three NBA titles.
D’Angelo Russell discusses what he learned from Kobe Bryant
Although there was nothing spectacular about the 2015-16 NBA season for Los Angeles, with the Lakers finishing with a record of 17-65, the young team got to witness the end of Bryant’s playing career, which ended with a 60-point performance against the Utah Jazz.
Bryant left an impact on all the young players he played with that year, from Russell to Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr. Each of these players has shared numerous stories about playing with Bryant and what they learned.
Russell discussed what he learned from Bryant during their time together.
“Honestly, I’d say the biggest thing I learned was just how he moved. Not what he said. Not anything directly towards me. Just being able to sit back in the shadows and watch how he went about his business. As a young player, I didn’t know how big of a deal that was, but when I look back on it, those are kind of vivid memories for me. His response or the way he talked or the way he walked. Things like that.”
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!