Shaquille O'Neal Wishes He Shared More with Kobe Bryant: I 'Never Said' the 'Stuff That I Wanted to Say'

"The thing that hurt me was all the stuff that I wanted to say, I hadn't said it. I never said it," Shaquille O'Neal told USA Today

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Shaquille O’Neal is continuing to heal from the tragic loss of his longtime teammate Kobe Bryant.

In an interview with USA Today published on Monday, O'Neal admitted he still had things he wanted to tell Bryant, who would have turned 42 on Sunday.

"I don’t want to see anybody go out like that and never to be able to talk to him again," the 48-year-old said. "The thing that hurt me was all the stuff that I wanted to say, I hadn’t said it. I never said it."

O'Neal has called his pairing with Bryant on the Los Angeles Lakers as the "most dominant one-two punch ever." The team went to the NBA Finals four times between 2000 and 2004 and won three NBA championships in a row. But O'Neal and Bryant's time on the team was sometimes filled with drama, with both players subtly — and not so subtly — taking jabs at each other in the media and behind-the-scenes.

"There’s a myth that you have to be best friends to win championships. We only have to have one thing, and that’s respect," O’Neal told USA Today. "If he goes to the hole with four people coming, he’s dropping it off to me. When I get double or triple-teamed, I look for him first. He knows I need him."

"I’m damn sure he knows he needs me," he added of Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash with his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others, on Jan. 26. "I was just hurt I would never be able to tell him anything ever again."

Kobe Bryant
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images

While the two had tension that lasted even after they went their separate ways in the NBA (O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat from the Lakers in July 2004), the duo sat down for an interview on TNT in 2018, where they fondly reflected on their championship runs.

"Me and him sitting down, talking about old times," O'Neal told PEOPLE of the interview at the time. "Actually some of the stories we were telling, we both forgot, but since we were sitting there, we recalled them very quickly. These are memories you can never take away."

"I always tell people when it comes to the Kobe-Shaq story, the story would be less compelling if we didn’t win any championships," he continued. "Then it’d be, ‘Oh, they didn’t like each other. They didn’t win.’ But, we won three out of four, so I always tell people, what would I change? The answer is nothing. We won three out of four … I feel absolutely good about my career."

O'Neal posted a tribute video of Bryant to his Instagram page on Sunday that featured highlights from their time together on the Lakers.

"Happy birthday Kobe," O'Neal wrote in the caption. "They couldn’t stop the REIGN."

RELATED VIDEO: Kobe Bryant Is Still Inspiring Shaquille O'Neal to 'Reach Out' to Other Retired NBA Players

On Monday night, the Lakers will wear "Black Mamba" uniforms that were designed by Bryant and Nike after his retirement. They will wear the uniforms during their game against the Portland Trailblazers in what is the club's first playoff series since Bryant helped lead them there in 2o13.

Bryant's uniform design features a black snakeskin print and 3-D style lettering. There are also 16 stars on the jersey's side panels representing the team's NBA titles, five of which were won with the help of Bryant.

Contributions to the Mamba & Mambacita Sports Foundation will help support youth sports.

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