The basketball star said Kobe Bryant had to remind him of their first encounter

By Georgia Slater
June 26, 2020 12:48 PM
Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal
| Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Shaquille O'Neal is reflecting on his first memory with late teammate Kobe Bryant.

The NBA great, 48, appeared on Thursday's episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where he told the story of when he first met Bryant before they played together on the Los Angeles Lakers.

"Actually, Kobe reminded me of this story," O'Neal admitted. "I was in Orlando, and him and his family came into the locker room and he asked Penny [Hardaway] for an autograph."

At the time, O'Neal and Hardaway were teammates on the Orlando Magic.

"I guess Penny kind of blew him off or whatever, I'm not sure — this is what Kobe was telling me. And then he said he came up to me, and I was real nice to him," the athlete told Fallon.

He continued, "I never knew until he told me one day, this rookie, 'You remember me?' He was like 'I came in the locker room.' And I was like, 'Oh yeah, that was you.'"

"I realize what I loved about him early on was he wanted the spot. He wanted to be the best," O'Neal added.

Bryant tragically died alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others in a helicopter accident on Jan. 26. He was 41.

O'Neal told Fallon that after Bryant's passing, he realized the importance of not waiting to tell someone how much they mean to you.

“Shortly before Kobe passed away, my sister passed away,” O'Neal said. “It’s been really tough for me, so I wanna urge everybody out there, if you wanna say something to anybody don’t wait."

"I don’t care if you had arguments. If you love ‘em, if you miss ‘em — if you miss ‘em, pick up your phone and tell ‘em you miss ‘em right then," he added.

The basketball star said he wishes he could still call Bryant just to tell him about little things.

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal
| Credit: AFP via Getty Images

"'Cause I would love now to even call him and tell him, 'Kobe, I’m gonna post a picture of us winning the championship 20 years ago.' Can you believe we’re that old? I can’t do that anymore," he added.

O'Neal expressed similar sentiments earlier this year about wishing he reached out more to Bryant, whom he called his "brother."

“I wish we would have communicated more,” O’Neal revealed on his show The Big Podcast with Shaq just one day after Bryant's death.

“That’s just how we are. Of course, when we saw each other it was love and respect and you know looking out for the kids. His daughter Gigi was a fabulous player. I just wish I could have talked to him before, that’s it,” O’Neal continued.

“I just wish he was here. I wish I could say something to him.”

If you would like to help the families of the victims of the crash, consider donating to the Mamba on Three Fund. Contributions to the Mamba Sports Foundation will help support youth sports.