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Read Shaquille O’Neal’s speech at Kobe Bryant’s memorial

Kobe & Gianna Bryant Celebration of Life
 Shaquille O’Neal speaks at the Kobe & Gianna Bryant Celebration of Life on Monday at Staples Center.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

When I imagine speaking to a group of people about Kobe Bryant, I usually picture the context of his Hall of Fame induction or as a guest speaker at one of Kobe and Vanessa’s Foundation events. But never, ever could I have imagined that I’d be here today speaking at his memorial. And it pains me to my core. Like all of you, I continue to be devastated by the loss of my friend, my little brother Kobe Bryant and my beautiful niece Gigi.

To Vanessa and the kids, Kobe’s parents, sisters and the families who lost a loved one on that tragic day, we grieve with you. All of us were forever changed on January 26th. As we know, the Black Mamba’s legacy will be more than just being one of the greatest basketball players of all time. And believe me, Kobe was surely a gifted and intelligent student of the game. I remember him saying, “These guys are playing checkers, and I’m out here playing chess.”

And I would say, “I guess so, Kobe, I don’t know how to play chess.”

I’d like to tell you that Kobe, what filled Kobe’s heart with the most pride was his role as a loving husband to Vanessa, daddy to Gigi, Natalia, Bianka and baby Capri, and a loving son and brother. Kobe was a loyal friend and a true renaissance man. As many of you know, Kobe I have a very complex relationship throughout the years.

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But not unlike another leadership duo, John Lennon and Paul McCartney, whose creative rivalry led to some of the greatest music of all time. Kobe and I pushed one another to play some of the greatest basketball of all time and I am proud that no other team has accomplished what the three-peat Lakers have done since the Shaq and Kobe Lakers did it. And sometimes like immature kids, we argued, we fought, we bantered, we assaulted each other with offhand remarks on the field. Make no mistake, even when folks thought we were on bad terms, when the cameras are turned off, he and I would throw a wink at each other and say let’s go whoop some ass.

We never took it seriously. In truth, Kobe and I always maintained a deep respect and a love for one another. The day Kobe gained my respect was, the guys were complaining, said, “Shaq, Kobe’s not passing the ball.” I said, “I’ll talk to him.” I said, “Kobe, there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team’.” He said, “I know, but there’s an ‘M-E’ in that motherf—.” So I went back and told Rick and Big Shot Bob, I said, “Just get the rebound, he’s not passing it.”

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Shaquille O’Neal delivered the biggest smile of the day at the Kobe and Gianna Bryant memorial. Warning: The video includes profanity.

Mamba, you were taken away from us way too soon. Your next chapter of life was just beginning. But now it’s time for us to continue your legacy. You said yourself that everything negative, pressure, challenges is all opportunity for me to rise. So now take the sage advice and now rise from anguish and begin with the healing. Just know that we got your back, little brother, I’ll look after things down here, I’ll be sure to teach Natalia, Bianka and baby Capri all your moves. And I promise I will not teach them my free throw techniques.

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For now, I take comfort in the fact as we speak, Kobe and Gigi are holding hands, walking to the nearest basketball court. Kobe will show his new Mamba moves today and Gigi soon master them. Kobe you’re heaven’s MVP. I love you, my man. Till we meet again. Rest in peace, Kobe.


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