LOS ANGELES -- Shaquille O'Neal was among NBA greats who took to the podium at Staples Center on Monday to eulogize Kobe Bryant, with whom he won three consecutive championships after they both joined the Lakers in 1996.
Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash last month along with daughter Gianna and seven others, played eight of his 20 years as a Laker alongside Shaq.
Although their relationship was often publicly tumultuous, Shaq on Monday said the two were always friendly in private. He compared their dynamic to John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
"Kobe and I pushed each other to play some of the greatest basketball of all time," O'Neal said. "I'm proud nobody has accomplished what the threepeat Lakers have done since the Shaq and Kobe Lakers did it."
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O'Neal drew raucous laughter from the otherwise somber mourners in the downtown Los Angeles arena when he shared a profane joke about an exchange between him and Bryant during their time as teammates.
He said the day Bryant gained his respect was after fellow Lakers complained that "Kobe's not passing the ball."
"I said, I'll talk to him," Shaq recalled. "I said, 'Kobe, there's no 'I' in 'T-E-A-M.'
"And Kobe said, 'I know, but there's an 'M-E.'"
He later closed out his remarks by describing Bryant as "heaven's MVP. I love you, my man. Until we meet again."
Shaq pays tribute to 'little brother' Kobe Bryant at memorial: 'You're heaven's MVP'