Kobe Bryant texted Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shareef, just hours before he was killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26, and Shareef cherishes those words.
Shareef, who shared a screengrab of Bryant asking him “You good fam?” told Sports Illustrated he made the message his phone background.
“I look at it every day,” Shareef said. “It’s a special moment. It’s crazy that three hours before that he texted me asking if I’m good. He was always checking in on me. I was literally going, I would’ve seen him that day because I was going to the same place he was going. It’s crazy. It’s still unbelievable.”
Shareef said he was supposed to go to Mamba Sports Academy, where Bryant was headed the day he and eight others were killed in the accident. Bryant wanted O’Neal’s sister to play basketball with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, who also died in the crash.
“There’s always those people in life you look at like superheroes and that nothing bad can ever happen to them. It’s still unbelievable to me, I still don’t even want to believe it,” Shareef said. “It’s just crazy to think about. It races through my mind, but it made me focus more. I feel like it’s changed my basketball drive to times 10. I’m gonna do it for him because I know he’d want me to do well. He always told me he wanted me to do well. It’s crazy, but I’m gonna play for him.”
Shareef, who is transferring from UCLA to his dad’s alma mater LSU, got a Bryant tribute tattoo earlier this month.
Shaq, who won three NBA titles with the Lakers alongside Bryant, was distraught after Bryant’s death.
“I lost a little brother,” Shaq said.