Shaquille O'Neal's younger sister Ayesha Harrison-Jex has died at the age of 40.
The Florida A&M University alum passed away on Thursday (October 24), three years after she was diagnosed with cancer. Shaq's colleagues announced the devastating news on TNT's Inside the NBA while addressing his absence on Thursday's episode.
"We have to tell you why you’re not seeing Shaquille O’Neal here on the set tonight,” the 47-year-old Hall of Famer's co-host Ernie Johnson began. “Basically the ‘Big Fella,’ who I’ve described as ‘the biggest kid in the world,’ his heart is breaking tonight. He said his world revolves around his brother and two sisters. And he lost one of his sisters this morning.”
Ernie went on to share details about Ayesha, explaining that she was a mother to her son Bryce, and a double FAMU graduate, earning her bachelor's degree and master's degree from the historically black university. He added that Shaq is currently in Orlando, Florida, to be with his family.
“I’m trying to put into words the way Shaquille has reacted to this, and he’s struggling,” Ernie shared. “And when he struggles, we struggle with him. Because he’s one of our brothers and we feel for him tonight.”
The former NBA star's other co-hosts —Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith— also sent their condolences to Shaquille and his family. “I want to just give a special shout-out to his mom, Miss Lucille, who was best friends with my mom,” Charles said. “When my mom passed away, she came and spent her last few days with my mom. So I just want to give Miss Lucille a hug and tell her I love her. What she did for my mom at the end … I can never thank them enough, and I feel for her and Shaquille. And the rest of the family also.”
Kenny added, "He’s … the big family guy. We always see his kids, his family always around. One of the most difficult things about being close to someone and working with them this many years — you get to know them and their family and their friends, so you hurt so much more just as much as you have the pain, just as much as you have the joy … That’s part of being a family, experiencing the joy and the pain."
Shaq later responded to his co-hosts' heartfelt message of support on Twitter, writing, “Thanks for the condolences and the love. If I had older brothers, it would be you 3. Love y’all and love you more Candice."