Shareef, 20, took to Twitter in the wake of Bryant’s tragic passing to share a screenshot of a direct message he received from the NBA legend earlier that day. In their brief conversation, the late Los Angeles Lakers star checked in on the young athlete to see how he was doing, writing: “You good fam?”
“Yeah! Just been getting this work in, trying to figure out my next move,” Shareef replied. “How you been?”
Shareef’s screenshot didn’t include an additional response from Bryant, but it was accompanied by an emotional message for the late athlete. “Literally this morning you reached out to me ….😔,” the college basketball player wrote. “I love you forever unc❤️ I love you.”
Bryant was one of nine individuals that died in a deadly helicopter crash that occurred on Sunday in Calabasas, California, right before 10 a.m. PT. The rotorcraft burst into flames after it crashed into a hillside in the California neighborhood. The pro-baller’s second eldest daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, was among those who died in the accident. Bryant was 41.
Shareef’s father — who played alongside Bryant for the Lakers — also reacted to the former athlete’s death with a heartbreaking tribute. For Shaq’s post, he took to Twitter to honor both Bryant and his daughter. Shaq, 47, shared several photos of Bryant, including shots from their years as teammates.
“There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice [sic] Gigi & my brother @kobebryant,” Shaq tweeted. “I love u and u will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW.”
In a follow-up tweet, Shaq noted that Bryant was “so much more than an athlete.”
“He was a family man. That was what we had most in common,” he continued. “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.”
Kobe was a five-time NBA champion and an 18-time All-Star. He spent all 20 years of his professional basketball career, which began in 1996 shortly after he graduated from high school, with the Lakers.
The Academy Award winner shared daughters Natalia, 17, Gianna, 13, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months, with his wife, Vanessa Laine Bryant. Kobe and Vanessa married in April 2001.