RIP Ayesha Harrison-Jex — Shaquille O'Neal's Sister Dead At 40

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How Did Ayesha Harrison-Jex Die? New Details On The Death Of Shaquille O'Neal's Sister

Truly tragic — it was recently revealed that Shaquille O'Neal's beloved sister, Ayesha Harrison-Jax, passed away. Her death hit the basketball legend so hard, in fact, that an entire episode of TNT's "Inside the NBA" was dedicated to her. But how did Ayesha Harrison-Jex die?

Though he is retired, today, Shaquille O'Neal was one of the best basketball players in the world in his prime. Considered one of the greatest players in NBA history, O'Neal has a towering 7-foot-1 inch frame and played for six different teams during his 19-year career. He also has a burgeoning rap career, with one of his rap albums going platinum. He's also a touring DJ, who lights up the crowd under the moniker DIESEL. And finally, he's a reality star in his own right and a sometime-commentator on various sports shows.  

But even a titan in the industry like Shaquille O'Neal can have his heart broken, and the death of his sister is just the latest in a long line of heartbreaks. 

Here's what we know about the passing of Ayesha Harrison-Jex. 

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1. She was Shaquille O'Neal's half-sister. 

Shaq was born to Lucille O'Neal after she had a relationship with a man named Joe Toney. Toney was a basketball player with a promising future, and even got a scholarship to play at Seton Hall University. However, he struggled with drug addiction, and even served jail time for it. Toney eventually relinquished all parental rights to Shaquille O'Neal, and he was adopted by his stepfather, Phillip Harrison. Ayesha and Lateefah, O'Neal's sisters, were a product of that marriage, as was his brother, according to The Undefeated. 

2. Shaquille O'Neal said he was "heartbroken" over the death of Ayesha Harrison-Jex.

People revealed that Shaq's co-star on Inside the NBA, Ernie Johnson, broke the news of Ayesha Harrison-Jex in a recent episode. "We have to tell you why you’re not seeing Shaquille O’Neal here on the set tonight. 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," said Johnson.

3. She was an accomplished woman in her own right. 

According to NJ.com, Ayesha Harrison-Jex, who was a NJ native like her half-brother Shaq, was an accomplished woman in her own right. She had a bachelor's and a master's degree, and also had a young son. 

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4. Ayesha Harrison-Jex was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. 

According to Yahoo, Ayesha Harrison-Jex was diagnosed with cancer three years ago. It's unclear what type of cancer she had, or how she got it. 

5. The entire cast of Inside the NBA paid tribute to Shaquille O'Neal and his family. 

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the entire cast of Inside the NBA, which airs on TNT, paid tribute to Shaq and his family. In addition to Ernie Johnson paying tribute to his friend's sister, Charles Barkley shared kind words about Shaq's mother, whom he befriended at the beginning of Shaq's career. 

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6. Ayesha Harrison-Jex died of cancer at age 40. 

Ayesha Harrison-Jex lost her battle with cancer after fighting it for three years. She is survived by Shaquille O'Neal, his family, and her young son. 

Our thoughts are with their families during this difficult time. 

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Bernadette Giacomazzo is an editor, writer, and photographer whose work has appeared in People, Teen Vogue, Us Weekly, The Source, XXL, HipHopDX, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, and more. She is also the author of The Uprising series. For more information about Bernadette Giacomazzo, click here