Since the untimely death of Kobe Bryant back on January 26th, 2020, people who knew him have been sharing their fondest memories of the NBA icon and what made him so special. 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 actually got an Instagram DM from Kobe on the same day he passed away tragically in a helicopter crash. In fact, Kobe contacted him less than two hours before his life would end.
In a new interview with Bleacher Report — Shareef shared that he was actually on the 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.'”
“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.”
Shareef now keeps that DM as his screen lock on his phone. “My phone background is just literally that message and I look at it every day because … it just motivates me,” O’Neal said, via Bleacher Report.
Here is the full message where Shareef replied back, but Kobe would’ve been deceased for at least an hour already.
“I still to this day, I don’t want to believe it,” Shareef said of Kobe’s passing.