The NBA star pulled together a series of photos from the duo’s time playing together on the Los Angeles Lakers and wrote an emotional tribute to Bryant, who died on Sunday at the age of 41.
“There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of loosing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie,” O’Neal wrote on Instagram. “I love you brother and you will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW !”
O’Neal joins the many other celebrities and athletes who have reacted to the tragic news that Bryant was killed in a helicopter crash in Calabasas Sunday morning. A source confirmed the death to PEOPLE.
The NBA legend was reportedly traveling in his private helicopter when it went down, according to TMZ. A rep for Bryant also confirmed to TMZ that his daughter Gianna, 13, was killed in the crash.
Emergency personnel responded but none of the nine people onboard survived, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office said during a press conference.
Bryant and O’Neal had a famously tumultuous relationship, and were frequent rivals while playing together for the Lakers.
Despite their tension, the team went to the NBA Finals four times between 2000 and 2004 and won three NBA championships in a row.
In 2018, O’Neal and Bryant finally made amends when they sat down for an intimate conversation for TNT, and O’Neal later opened up to PEOPLE about their relationship.
“I always tell people when it comes to the Kobe-Shaq story, the story would be less compelling if we didn’t win any championships,” he said at the time. “Then it’d be, ‘Oh, they didn’t like each other. They didn’t win.’ But, we won three out of four, so I always tell people, what would I change? The answer is nothing. We won three out of four … I feel absolutely good about my career.”
Bryant is survived by Vanessa, 37, and three of their four children together: daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.
Since the start of his basketball career, Bryant, the son of former NBA player Joe Bryant, was one of the most accomplished men in the NBA, having played all 20 seasons with the Lakers.
Bryant entered the NBA straight out of high school in the 1996 draft, becoming the first guard ever drafted directly out school. During his time in the NBA, he went on to become an 18-time All-Star, 15-time member of the All-NBA team and 12-time All-Defensive team member. In 2008, he was named NBA’s Most Valuable Player.