But when Shareef O’Neal, the 20-year-old son of retired NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal, turned his eyes to the sky recently, what he saw stopped him in his tracks. There, in the blue expanse, was a number that meant a lot to the college basketball player and to many other sports fans all over the world.
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He spotted the very first jersey number that late Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant ever wore on the court at Staples Center.
“I thought I should share what I saw in the sky today, #8” the younger O’Neal wrote alongside the photo of the floating number. “It might be a stretch to some but I see it clear as ever #8.”
And he wasn’t the only one. Fans and followers on Twitter were quick to agree with his cloud interpretation, and they went on to retweet the image more than 20,000 times.
Gianna, better known as “Gigi,” died alongside her father in the January helicopter crash that claimed his life and that of seven others.
Bryant wore No. 8 and later No. 24 during his tenure with the Lakers, and both of his jersey digits have been showing up a lot lately.
Aug. 23 marked what would have been Bryant’s 42nd birthday, and on that date, his jerseys were displayed in social media posts, draped courtside at games and one No. 8 even made it onto the court — thanks to WNBA player Diana Taurasi.
The Phoenix Mercury guard wore Bryant’s name and number as she helped her team get the win in a matchup against the Washington Mystics.
And, of course, there was no shortage of No. 8s on display earlier this year, when the L.A. Lakers returned to the court for the first time following Bryant’s death. A sea of his jerseys were placed over seats at Staples Center as the team played against the Portland Trail Blazers on Jan. 31.