By now, you know all of the details surrounding the horrific, untimely, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, tear-jerking deaths of Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, along with seven others in a helicopter crash on Sunday.
Obviously, the first people that came to mind when hearing the news were his wife, Vanessa, and his other three daughters. A mother just lost her husband and daughter. Three girls just lost their father and their sister.
That is something that almost none of us can comprehend, and all of our thoughts and prayers are with the Bryant family.
But the next person that came to mind was Shaquille O’Neal, his legendary former running mate with the Lakers.
Bryant and O’Neal may very well have been the most dominant duo in NBA history, winning three straight championships with the Lakers from 2000 through 2002. On the court, they were a symphony. Off of it, they were like oil and water.
It’s not worth getting knee-deep into what was a much-publicized tenuous relationship. You all already know the story.
But the dynamic tandem that couldn’t even be in the same room together 15 years ago slowly but surely began to mend their fractured relationship as time went on, and almost exactly two years ago, Bryant and O’Neal had a famous sitd-own talk with one another that was aired on TNT during the All-Star break in 2018. They accepted responsibility. They squashed their beef. They forgave one another. It was beautiful.
And it was just in time.
Bryant perished nearly two years later, leaving behind an unforgettable legacy and memories that will last NBA fans—not just Los Angeles Lakers fans—a lifetime.
But can you imagine what Shaq’s mental state would be right now had the two not reconciled their differences?
While tributes poured in from NBA players, other athletes, celebrities and fans from all walks of life, O’Neal’s Instagram posts following Bryant’s passing were particularly touching and genuine.
Yes, Shaq and Kobe may have had their problems, but make no mistake: Shaq loved Kobe.
This surely cuts O’Neal deeply. He didn’t just lose a former teammate. He didn’t just lose his partner in winning multiple titles and birthing a legendary tale.
He lost his other half. He lost his brother.
But Shaq can take solace in knowing that he lost him on good terms.
Kobe and Shaq were not only on speaking terms, but they genuinely grew to like one another once again. O’Neal was one of the first people Bryant hugged following his 60-point performance in the final game of his career. Bryant was there to unveil O’Neal’s statue outside of the Staples Center. And I can bet you that Shaq will be present at Kobe’s Hall-of-Fame induction this year, and who knows? He may even give the speech his little brother from another mother was supposed to give.
This doesn’t mean that O’Neal isn’t hurting, because he is. If millions and millions of people who have never met Bryant are in pain, just think of what Shaq is feeling.
What it does mean is that O’Neal can go to sleep at night with a clear conscience knowing that he and Bryant were okay. If they weren’t, Shaq would have been eaten alive by the thought of it for the rest of his life.
Even still, O’Neal will likely never be the same. Bryant was just 41 years old when he died. His daughter was 13. That is enough to make anyone question their own mortality. And when that someone who passed on is someone so close to you, it messes you up that much more.
But there is a lesson in this for all of us: don’t hold grudges.
You never know what happens in life. There are around eight billion people alive in the world today. Who would have guessed that Kobe Bryant would be one of the nine (let’s remember there were seven other passengers on board in addition to Bryant and his daughter, so our thoughts and prayers should also go out to them) out of eight billion who perished in a helicopter crash on Sunday?
You can’t expect this stuff. You can’t script life.
However, what you can do is be kind to everyone you encounter, because you never know what they are going through, and you can never be sure of what’s next.
And for those of you who may be at odds with family members or friends? Take heed from Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Do your best to fix it. Now.
There is nothing good about what happened on Sunday, but if there is one thing we can take from this, we should look to Shaq and Kobe repairing their damaged relationship before it was too late.
Don’t let it be too late for you.