“I still can’t believe it,” O’Neal told his “NBA on TNT” colleagues.
The big fella offered his condolences to the family of his friend and former Lakers teammate, and said the two legends will forever be linked.
“The fact that we lost probably the world’s greatest Laker, the world’s greatest basketball player is just — listen, people are going to say take your time and get better, but this is going to be hard for me,” O’Neal said. “I already don’t sleep anyway, but I’ll figure it out.”
O’Neal was working out with family members when he got the news and hoped it wasn’t true.
“I never could have imagined nothing like this,” he said. “I was thinking the other day I’ve never seen anything like this. All the basketball idols that I grew up (watching), I see them. They’re old.”
O’Neal, who said he spent the past few days watching video highlights of Bryant and himself, noted that in his eyes, there never will be a better center-guard duo in NBA history than Bryant and himself.
“When Kobe came, I sat him down and said, what do you want to be?” O’Neal said. “At 17, he said, ‘I am going to be the best player in the world, and off the court, I am going to be bigger than Will Smith.’ You know me, I’m like, slow down, slow down … it was fun. Our names will always be linked. We talk about who’s this and who’s that. I truly believe that we will be the most dominant big, little one-two punch ever. I still can’t believe it.”