Kobe Bryant's Heartbreaking Final Messages Hours Before Death
Just hours before his tragic death, Kobe Bryant sent a message checking in on Shareef O'Neal -- the son of longtime Lakers teammate, Shaquille.
Shareef was one of many to express his heartbreak at the news of the basketball legend's death in a helicopter crash, which also killed Bryant's teenage daughter, Gianna, and seven others.
Sharing a screenshot of a direct message conversation on Instagram, Shareef said Bryant had reached out to him just hours before the crash.
"Literally this morning you reached out to me," Shareef tweeted on Monday.
"I love you forever unc... I love you."
In the message, Bryant asks Shareef how he is doing.
"You good fam," the message reads.
"Yeah! Just been getting this work in trying to figure out my next move. How you been?," Shareef replies in the exchange.
Earlier on Monday, Shareef had tweeted "can't be real... please don't be real."
He later posted a heartfelt tribute to the basketball legend.
"You've really been there for me 20 years of my life... been there for me since I was born... love you," he tweeted.
He also tweeted about Bryant's daughter Gianna Maria Onore, who was also killed in the crash -- saying "Gigi, love you cousin."
Shareef's father Shaq was one of the first to express his grief over the tragic accident, saying he felt sick.
"There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother Kobe Bryant, [sic]" he said on Twitter.
"My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board."
"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," he added in another tweet.
Thousands of people -- including sports stars, celebrities and politicians -- have shared messages of their grief and condolences to Bryant's wife Vanesa Laine Bryant and their three surviving daughters Natalia, Bianca, and newborn Capri.
As news of his death spread, NBA teams honoured Bryant during their games.
The Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers all let their 24-second shot-clock run out as a sign of respect to the player, who wore the number 24.
Tennis star Naomi Osaka also wrote a heartfelt tribute for Bryant, who last year sat in her player's box to watch her matches at the US Open.
"Thank you for caring and checking up on me after my hard losses," Osaka wrote, referring to Bryant as her big brother, her mentor and her inspiration.
"Thank you for randomly texting me, "You ok?", cause you know how f***** up my head is sometimes."
"Thank you for teaching me so much in the short time I've been lucky enough to have known you."
"Thank you for existing."
Musicians at the Grammy Awards, which took place at Los Angeles' Staples Centre -- the home of many of Bryant's Lakers games -- also paid tribute to the basketball great during the ceremony.
Featured Image: PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP via Getty Images.