Former Lakers teammate O'Neal denies that he paid sex partners to keep quiet

By Stephen M. Silverman
September 30, 2004 09:15 AM

Shaquille O’Neal dismissed as “ridiculous” reported claims by Kobe Bryant that his ex-Lakers teammate had paid sex partners $1 million in hush money.

“The whole situation is ridiculous,” the married O’Neal told ESPN on Wednesday.

“I never hang out with Kobe,” O’Neal, 32, said to the cable sports network. “I never hung around him. … In seven or eight years we were together (on the Lakers), we were never together. So how this guy can think he knows anything about me or my business is funny.”

O’Neal’s denial came in response to a Los Angeles Times story quoting a police report in which Bryant told detectives in Eagle, Colo.: “He should have done what Shaq does … that Shaq would pay his women not to say anything” and already had paid up to $1 million “for situations like this.”

The Times reported that Bryant’s remarks were made during a police interrogation in his sexual assault criminal case, which was recently dismissed after his accuser stopped cooperating with authorities. Her civil case against Bryant is still set to move forward, however, though legal experts expect a financial settlement from Bryant to bring a close to that.

“And one last thing,” O’Neal, who now plays for the Miami Heat, told ESPN. “I’m not the one buying love. He’s the one buying love.”

O’Neal may have been referring to a $4 million diamond ring Bryant reportedly bought his wife Vanessa after he said he and his accuser, a hotel concierge, had “consensual” sex.