Hours before Kobe Bryant’s tragic death on Sunday, the NBA legend was reaching out to check on his loved ones.
Shaquille O’Neal‘s 20-year-old son, Shareef O’Neal, took to Twitter to share the message the 41-year-old star sent him before he, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant, and seven others perished in a horrific helicopter crash in Calabasas, California that very same day.
Alongside a screenshot of his final conversation with Kobe, Shareef wrote:
“Literally this morning you reached out to me. I love you forever unc, I love you.”
In the message sent at 8:19 A.M. local time on Instagram, Bryant asked the college hooper how he was doing after announcing he’d be leaving the UCLA Bruins and transferring to another school. He wrote:
“You good fam?”
Almost three hours later, Shareef replied:
“Yeah! Just been getting this work in trying to figure out my next move…How you been?”
Unfortunately, by that point, it’s likely that Bryant never saw the young man’s message sent just before 11:00 in the morning. As we reported, early details about the crash reveal the chopper went down around 10:00 a.m. on January 26.
How incredibly sad.
In a series of follow-up tweets, Shaq’s eldest son also paid tribute to Gianna, lovingly referring to her as a cousin in the post (below):
And added more about the basketball icon who played alongside his father for eight years from 1996-2004:
Bryant’s former teammate, Shaq, who now regularly serves as a post-game analyst for the league, also shared fond memories on social media in the wake of the terrible tragedy.
In one post, which featured photos of the stars in their heyday winning championships together, the 47-year-old wrote:
“There no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of loosing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie. I love you brother and you will be missed.”
He continued to reflect on Kobe’s legacy with an additional slideshow of images on Instagram:
View this post on Instagram
Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. We love our families. Whenever we got together I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gianna was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me’Arah. I miss you already brother. This is truly unbelievable. Everyone please keep the Bryant’s in your prayers. R.I.P
In full, O’Neal’s touching message reads:
“Kobe was so much more than an athlete, he was a family man. That was what we had most in common. I would hug his children like they were my own and he would embrace my kids like they were his. His baby girl Gigi was born on the same day as my youngest daughter Me’Arah. I miss you already brother. This is truly unbelievable. Everyone please keep the Bryant’s in your prayers. R.I.P.”
Ugh. We’re still reeling with emotion from all of this…
R.I.P. Kobe and to all the lives lost.
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