People who knew Kobe Bryant have been sharing their fond memories of him since the NBA icon passed away this past January. But few have a story as eerie as Shareef O'Neal. The 20-year-old college basketball star and son of Kobe's former teammate Shaquille O'Neal reveals that Kobe texted him an hour before he was tragically killed in a helicopter crash.
In a new interview with Bleacher Report, Shareef shares that his sister Me'Arah played on the same basketball team as Kobe's daughter Gianna. Shareef, in fact, was on his way to the same game Kobe and Gianna were headed to when their helicopter fatally crashed, killing them and seven others.
Shareef was in his car when he got news that Kobe and Gianna had died.
"It was unreal, because he was watching my little sister play the day before. Me'arah, my little sister, was going to play GiGi's team at like 11am," Shareef shares. "Me and [my best friend] Josh were in the car, and Josh says, 'yo, bro, look at this.' And he shows me the phone. And I see it says, 'Kobe Bryant has passed away in a helicopter crash.'"
Shareef says that, at first, he thought the headline was a hoax. "I'm like, 'Man, get that outta my face, I'm not tryna see it.'" A few minutes later, he realized it was probably true. "I'm like, 'somebody can't be playing a joke like this.' So I'm like, 'yo he just hit me an hour ago, like, what are you talking about?'"
A short while later, Shareef got confirmation of the devastating news. "My mom called, she's crying. She's like, 'they cancelled all the games. Kobe and GiGi passed away.' I kept looking at the messages to see if he would answer, but I wasn't getting any answer. Me and Josh, we just sat there and we cried for a long time."
As for the message that Kobe sent Shareef, which some speculate was the last text message he sent, it said: "You good fam?"
As many have shared, Kobe cared deeply for the people around him, and this bittersweet anecdote proves that point.
Watch Shareef's full interview at Bleacher Report.
Photo: Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images