Shaquille O'Neal wanted Kobe Bryant's death to be a hoax

Shaquille O'Neal hoped Kobe Bryant's death was a hoax.

The retired basketball star paid an emotional tribute to his former LA Lakers teammate - who tragically died alongside his daughter Gianna and seven other people in a helicopter crash on Sunday (26.01.20) - as he opened up from inside the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Speaking on TNT after the Lakers' game against the Los Angeles Clippers was postponed, he said: "It hit all of us out of nowhere. I didn't want to believe it.

"I said to my son, 'I hope some buttface made this up and it's not true', I didn't want to believe it. But then after getting all the calls... my spirit just left my body.

"I just wish I could be able to say one last thing to the people that we lost, because once you're gone, you're gone forever. We should never take stuff like that for granted."

Shaquille was visibly devastated as he opened up about his friend - who he hailed as the "world's greatest basketball player" - and admitted he knows how difficult this will be for him to cope with.

He added: "The fact that we lost probably the world's greatest Laker, the world's greatest basketball player is just - listen, people are going to say take your time and get better, but this is going to be hard for me.

"I already don't sleep anyway, but I'll figure it out."

His comments come after he paid tribute to Kobe on social media after the horrific news over the weekend.

Shaquille tweeted: "There's no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW (sic)"