Shaquille O’Neal’s sister, Ayesha Harrison-Jex, dies of cancer

Sports

Retired Hall of Fame basketball player Shaquille O’Neal smiles as he talks to reporters during an NBA basketball news conference, Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016, in Miami. The Heat raise O’Neal’s No. 32 banner to the rafters. He will be the third Heat player to get such an honor, joining only Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

SAN FRANCISCO – Shaquille O’Neal’s sister has died at the age of 40, “Inside the NBA” co-host Ernie Johnson said while explaining the legendary NBA big man’s absence Thursday night.

Ayesha Harrison-Jex died Thursday morning after battling cancer for three years.

“We have to tell you why you’re not seeing Shaquille O’Neal here on the set tonight,” Johnson said. “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.”

Johnson said she will be buried in a military cemetery next to O’Neal’s stepfather, Sgt. Phillip Harrison. Harrison-Jex, who has a son, Bryce, graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Florida A&M.

“I’m trying to put into words the way Shaquille has reacted to this, and he’s struggling,” Johnson said. “When he struggles we struggle with him because he’s one of our brothers and we feel for him tonight.”

TNT tweeted a video of the message to Shaq and his family, saying “Big Fella, you hang in there.”

O’Neal responded, “Thanks for the condolences and the love. If I had older brothers, it would be you 3.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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