by emily belfiore | Thu., Apr. 23, 2020 8:00 AM
Shaquille O'Neal misses his friend Kobe Bryant.
On Wednesday's at-home episode of Conan, the NBA alum opened up about coping with the loss of the late basketball legend, explaining that one of the first things he did was watch old game footage of him and Kobe after learning of his sudden passing.
"This is my toughest year," he told host Conan O'Brien, noting that he lost his dear friend and his sister Ayesha Harrison-Jex. "It's just a tough year, but you know, I'm glad there's social media, I'm glad there's DVDs and I'm glad there's YouTube because when he first passed away, I couldn't believe it. I watched every playoff game we ever played. I just sat in my room. I told people I don't want to talk to anybody and I'm, like—I'm just looking at him like, ‘It can't be true ‘cause he's right there on the screen. I'm watching him.'"
As he discussed the aftermath of Kobe's death, Shaq also shared that his posthumous induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame will be too hard to watch, adding that he will only tune in to support his wife Vanessa Bryant.
"I probably won't watch that because it's not gonna be the same without him," he admitted. "The only way I'll watch it is if his beautiful wife gives a speech or if his mother or father gives a speech on his behalf. I just, you know, if I had two wishes, I just wish he was there and I wish I could take my sister to the ceremony to watch him be inducted."
Switching gears, the duo also talked about his shocking appearance in Tiger King, which featured old footage of the L.A. Lakers star visiting infamous zoo owner Joe Exotic's G.W. Zoo back in the day. Providing more context for the late night host, Shaq explained that he has a passion for tigers and wanted to check out the facility, stressing that he does not condone the zoo or Joe's actions.
"We were traveling back and forth…and I see a sign that says, ‘We have tigers.' White tigers. I love white tigers. That's my weakness. So, I go. And the gentleman is there, you know, the long hair, the shirts," he recalled. "And, like, you know, I tell people all the time: Being friendly to somebody doesn't mean that we're friends. I have no affiliation with him or his zoo."
Shaq continued, "Two years later I go back and the other guy pulls me to the side and says, ‘There's some stuff going on. You might not want to come back here again.' I never came back and I think that was seven or eight years ago. And, finally, I'm watching the DVD—because I follow what was happening—and then on episode one, I see myself and I'm like, ‘Here we go…' And the next day, everybody was going crazy." Addressing the viewers, Shaq pleaded, "But, America, I do not harm animals. I love animals."
Curious to know more about his visit, Conan asked what it was like to meet Joe and if he had the same energy he portrayed in the series. "You know what? He was one of those guys that go to auditions every day and they want to be a star so bad, they'll do anything," Shaq shared.
Find out who Shaq's favorite zoo staffer was in the video above!