The two of them sat next to each other on stage. They laughed, they joked, they acknowledged each other’s place in the franchise’s lore.
As they did it, a fraught chapter in Lakers history closed.
“Brother, thank you,” Shaquille O’Neal said to Kobe Bryant, standing on a stage at Star Plaza in front of Staples Center, as Bryant sat near him, smiling. “We pushed each other. We had our battles. We had our times. We always had respect for each other, and we were able to win three championships. Definitely couldn’t have done it without you. I appreciate you very much.”
Moments later, the crowd chanted a countdown, then a gold cloth fell, revealing a bronze sculpture hanging from a Staples Center awning, depicting O’Neal hanging from a rim after dunking with both hands, his feet swinging into the air.
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