Shaquille O’Neal says the one-year anniversary of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna‘s tragic deaths was a really “tough day.”
While speaking to ET via Zoom on Wednesday, the former Los Angeles Lakers star admitted it’s hard to believe that a year has already passed since Kobe, Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash near Calabasas, California.
“I’m sort of a tough cookie, but I was more worried about [Kobe’s] parents,” Shaq told ET’s Nischelle Turner. “So I called them, made sure they was right. We didn’t talk long, just, ‘Love you guys, if you ever need me, I’m here.'”
“Look, I’m 48. I’ve been through a lot, I’ve seen a lot. So I was more worried about his mom,” he continued. “I’m a mama’s boy, so that’s the first thing I did when I woke up; called his mom and just let her know that I love her.”
Shaq shared that he also briefly spoke to Kobe’s wife, Vanessa Bryant, on Tuesday, who he says was “doing OK under the unfortunate circumstances.” In addition to Gianna, Kobe and Vanessa shared three other children together — Natalia, 18, Bianka, 4, and Capri, 1.
“It was a tough day for the country, but for Vanessa and the kids, and for Kobe’s parents, his brother and sisters, it was a tougher day,” Shaq said. “So I just wanted to make sure that they were OK.”
“[Vanessa] is doing a great job,” he added. “I’m sure [Kobe’s daughters] already know that their father was fearless and was a caring person.”
Shaq also teased what fans can expect from “The SHAQ Bowl,” the ultimate Super Bowl LV kickoff show presented by Mercari. The event, which will also feature a “SHAQ Bowl halftime show” presented by Pepsi Stronger Together, will air live from Tampa ahead of the big game on Sunday, Feb. 7.
“I want to give a shout-out to Mercari for presenting the SHAQ Bowl because they are all about connecting people,” Shaq explained. “It’s under the Shaq’s Fun House brand. I started Shaq’s Fun House because all the Super Bowl parties were boring. People would dress up and they look like you and are just staring around and not doing anything. So me and my partners … we wanted to bring sports and entertainment together with DJs, rappers, singers. We just wanted to change the way that we were entertaining people.”
“With COVID-19, there is not going to be a lot of people there, but I am going to be raising money with a bunch of my close friends, athletes, celebrities, superstars,” he continued. “There will be two teams competing in fun and viral challenges and we’re going to see who is going to be the first to win the Shaq trophy. Plus, I got my guys Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco, they’re going to be hosting with me.”
Shaq shared that they’re “going all out,” with a custom-built SHAQ Bowl stadium just 10 minutes away from Raymond James Stadium, where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs will play in the NFL championship game.
“Everything will be live, all the celebrities and all the musical performers,” he teased. “Team Kansas City is going to be Diplo, Ezekiel Elliott, Olivia Culpo, Quavo, Steve-O and the Miz, and team Tampa Bay is going to be Anthony Anderson, Drew McIntyre, Nelly, Offset, Tim Tebow and Winnie Harlow.”
Hear more on Super Bowl LV in the video below.
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