POSTED: Feb 11, 2016 8:32 PM ET
Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal watch from the bench in Game 6 of the West Semis in 2003.
TORONTO (AP) — Shaquille O'Neal has watched former teammate Kobe Bryant's farewell tour this season from afar. And even though Bryant hasn't been the consistently dynamic player he once was while playing for a Los Angeles Lakers team that is losing games by the bucketful, O'Neal couldn't help but be a little envious of the way Bryant has been able to say goodbye.
O'Neal's stellar career came to an end because of injury, robbing him of the chance to have the same kind of ending that Bryant is getting.
"I wish I would've had a Shaq Tour, yeah," O'Neal said Thursday before co-hosting TNT's popular "Inside The NBA" show that helped kickoff the league's All-Star festivities in Toronto. "Definitely. I know it would've been a lot of fun. I know I would've got a lot of gifts. It happened the way it happened. You can't complain. Just gotta move on from it."
O'Neal suffered a torn Achilles in 2011 while playing with the Boston Celtics at the age of 37. The most dominant big man of the modern era said he planned to play one more season before the injury and he was going to spend the summer of 2011 setting up his farewell tour to make it a goodbye as big as the man himself.
Once he went down, though, he knew it was over. He averaged 9.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 37 games of his final season. The Celtics offered to help him through rehab to make one more go of it, but O'Neal wouldn't have it.
"For me, it didn't feel right averaging 27 and then being a role player averaging 10," O'Neal said. "I didn't feel like Shaq anymore. So I was like, `you know what, I'm going to just go and chill and relax."
Bryant is on center stage this weekend after getting voted into the game as a starter on the Western Conference team. The two won three championships together in their famously combustible relationship that ended with O'Neal getting traded to Miami in 2004.
"They're not competitive," O'Neal said about Bryant's Lakers, who have the second-worst record in the league at 11-44. "This year is all about the Kobe tour. He's showing his obligation to the fans, giving him one last chance to look at him. I commend him for that."
On Friday, O'Neal could be selected as a finalist for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
With former Lakers center Dwight Howard's name popping up in trade rumors earlier Thursday, O'Neal didn't miss a chance to tweak a player he has often criticized in the past. The Rockets are struggling and in ninth place in the Western Conference, but Howard's representatives issued a statement through ESPN saying their client wants to stay in Houston and make it work.
"(The Rockets) are not happy with him and I'm not happy with him either," O'Neal said. "Every time I talk about him, people think it's hating, but it's not. And he's not getting double-teamed. I wish a (team) didn't double me. He doesn't get doubled at all."