The name on the back of Shareef O'Neal's LSU jersey will elicit memories of his father, but the number beneath is meant for another basketball legend.
The son of former Tigers basketball and NBA great Shaquille O'Neal will wear the No. 32 as he embarks on his career at LSU after a transfer from UCLA. He posted on social media Wednesday afternoon to share the math used to arrive at that number.
That was: 8 plus 24, which equals an apparent tribute to the late Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash along with his daughter, Gianna, and 7 others in January. Bryant wore the No. 8 early in his career before he switched to No. 24 in the 2006-'07 season. The Lakers retired both numbers in 2017.
Bryant was a longtime Lakers teammate of Shareef's father, Shaq, and helped guide the younger O'Neal as a mentor.
During an interview with Bleacher Report in April, Shareef recalled that Bryant was watching his sister, Amirah, play basketball the day before the crash.
"He had a big impact on me and my family," O'Neal said.
Shareef opens up to @brhoops about receiving one of Kobe's last text messages and how Kobe's death impacted him: “My phone background is just literally that message and I look at it every day because ... it just motivates me.” pic.twitter.com/xQPoWCRPqs— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 8, 2020
He had set his phone background to a screenshot of the last text message Bryant had sent him, which read "you good fam?" Shareef said he looks at it every day.
The O'Neal legacy is also set to continue on the women's side at LSU, with Amirah enrolled as a freshman for the Tigers.
LSU forward Shareef O’Neal is going to follow in his famous father’s giant footsteps on the Pete Maravich Assembly Center floor sooner rather …
Shareef's spot on the men's roster was cloudy until recent weeks when he found out his waiver to bypass the standard year wait for transfers had been approved by the NCAA. He spent his freshman and sophomore seasons at UCLA.
But while the jersey number has a deeper meaning, it still offers a more straightforward reference point when it comes to Shaq's NBA career. The hall-of-famer wore the NO. 33 at LSU, but he donned No. 32 for the Orlando Magic after being selected No. 1 overall in the 1992 NBA draft.
It wasn't the famous name or the physical attributes that left his former coach knowing Shareef O'Neal, even at just 13 years old, was a speci…
He went to No. 34 for his highly successful Lakers run alongside Bryant, then reverted to No. 32 for another title run with the Miami Heat and then for a short stint with the Phoenix Suns. Shaq also wore No. 33 with the Cleveland Cavaliers before changing to No. 36 with the Boston Celtics.
Shareef will debut his new number when he takes the court for the first time with LSU on Thanksgiving. The Tigers officially tip off their 2020 season at 6 p.m. against SIU Edwardsville.