"I don’t want to see anybody go out like that and never to be able to talk to him again," O’Neal said in the interview, published Monday. "The thing that hurt me was all the stuff that I wanted to say, I hadn’t said it. I never said it."
“You never know what stuff is going to happen,” O’Neal said. “So, you shouldn’t let stuff linger. Were we best friends? No. Did we respect the hell out of each other? 1,000%. Do I wish we could’ve talked every day and hung out every day. Yes.”
Bryant died in a helicopter crash in January. He and O'Neal were a formidable unit as Los Angeles Lakers teammates, though they didn’t always see eye to eye.
"There’s a myth that you have to be best friends to win championships,” O’Neal said, addressing the conflict they shared. “We only have to have one thing, and that’s respect. If he goes to the hole with four people coming, he’s dropping it off to me."
“When I get double- or triple-teamed, I look for him first,” he continued. “He knows I need him. I’m damn sure he knows he needs me. I was just hurt I would never be able to tell him anything ever again."
Meanwhile, another basketball icon, Allen Iverson, also paid tribute to Bryant on Monday.
Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers played against Bryant a number of times, and Iverson penned his thoughts on taking on Bryant for an essay titled “Dear Kobe,” published by The Players' Tribune.
"Me and you, every single time we stepped on that floor, we were going to war,” he wrote, after sharing that he needed to get his thoughts “off my chest.” “But it wasn’t an animosity thing. There was never any beef. It was like heavyweight fighters beating the hell out of one another.”
“And then at the bell, it’s nothing but love and respect,” he continued. “Greatness needs company, and we needed each other. Mike needed Prince like Prince needed Mike. Tyson needed Holyfield like Holyfield needed Tyson. Everybody needs that person to say, 'Oh, you’re the s**t, huh? Well, I’m the s**t, too.’ And boy, you were the s**t."
See more on how Bryant’s fans and loved ones marked his birthday, below.