Shaquille O’Neal opens up about wishing he’d spoken to Kobe Bryant more

The tragic death of Kobe Bryant will continue to bring pain to members of the Los Angeles Lakers family, both those directly involved with the franchise and those supporting it from the stands.

Bryant and his famous personality “Mamba Mentality” inspired athletes and fans around the world. And his legacy continues to impact lives, thanks in large part to the countless Kobe stories those who knew him began telling after the legendary Laker’s death.

But for most Purple and Gold fans, the sad realization that Bryant is gone forever hits every now and then — and with it comes sadness and nostalgia. Kobe’s former co-star, Shaquille O’Neal, told People’s David Walters that in moments like this he regrets all the things the two teammates-turned-friends left unsaid:

“You procrastinated [getting in touch]’ O’Neal, 50, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, out on newsstands this Friday. “I will never see Kobe again, in real life, forever. And I should have just called. He should have called. We should have both called. But he works, I work, so it’s ‘I see you when I see you.’”

O’Neal and Bryant feuded after becoming teammates, with the conflict leading to Shaq leaving LA after winning the storied treble with the Lakers in the early 2000s. But they eventually reconciled and became close again, with O’Neal saying he’s considering attending former Lakers legends get-togethers with Kobe in the years to come:

“[I thought]”We’re both getting old. We’ll both be there for the Lakers’ 50th anniversary.” Other things shouldn’t have been more important [than getting in touch]but little things [got in the way].”

His simple advice to others who feel separated from friends and loved ones: “Call your mom. call your brother Call that homeboy you used to party with in college. Forever is a long time.”

Back in September, members of the “Showtime” Lakers reunited for the first time in decades and spent a short vacation together in Hawaii.

Giannis Antetokounmpo doesn’t like comparisons to Bryant

Some young NBA stars — like Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum and Phoenix Suns playmaker Devin Booker — openly honor Bryant’s memory with in-game tributes and social media posts.

But Milwaukee Bucks forward and two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo prefers to keep his relationship with Kobe to himself – because he hasn’t had a chance to really get to know the Lakers icon.

“I’ll never say that, I’ll never disrespect the name of the great Kobe. I don’t like to mention him,” Antetokounmpo said in October. “I feel like he should be mentioned and never forgotten. But I don’t like mentioning his name to draw attention to the conversation we’re about to have. I wasn’t close to him. I wasn’t this with him or that with him.

“But I would say that in some areas of his mindset we are very similar.”

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