Ayesha Harrison-Jex, Shaquille O’Neal’s sister, died Thursday after a three-year fight with cancer. She was 40. O’Neal was not on the show, and Ernie Johnson explained his absence at the onset.
“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.”
O’Neal, 47, did not know his biological father growing up and was raised by his stepfather, Sgt. Philip A. Harrison, who was Harrison-Jex’s biological father. She graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s from Florida A&M and has a son, Bryce, Johnson said on the broadcast. He said she’ll be laid to rest in a military cemetery next to her father, who died in 2013.