It wouldn’t be a Kobe Bryant tribute without Shaquille O’Neal remembering his friend and former Los Angeles Lakers teammate.
The NBA center took the podium Monday at the Celebration of Life service for Kobe and Gianna Bryant, who died January 26 during a fatal helicopter crash the took the lives of seven others. Inside the Staples Center, to O’Neal delivered a heartwarming speech about their amazing bond, and the memories they shared during their time playing together.
“Never ever could I have imagined that I’d be here today,” said O’Neal, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers with Bryant from 1996 to 2004. “Kobe and I pushed one another to play some of the greatest basketball of all time. Kobe and I always maintained a deep respect and love for one another.”
He went on to share a story about how other Lakers players complained that Bryant at times wasn’t passing the ball. “I said Kobe there’s no ‘I’ in team. He said I know but there’s an ‘m-e’ in that m0therf-cker. So I went back and told Rick [Foxx and the other players]…just get the rebound. He’s not passing.”
Admittedly, their relationship was not perfect—just like true brothers. O’Neal added, “and yes sometimes like immature kids we argued and fought. But make no mistake, when cameras were turned off, he and I would wink at each other and say let’s go whoop some ass.”
“Mamba, you were taken away from us way too soon,” he continued. “Just know that we got your back, little brother.”
Other celebrities who remembered the Bryants on Monday were Michael Jordan and late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, who hosted. Beyoncé, Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera also performed.