Photo Credit: Shaunie O’Neal/Instagram; Koolmac

Shaquille O’Neal’s son Shareef missed last season playing for UCLA as a sophomore forward after doctors discovered a heart condition, according to his mother Shaunie. This revelation came on the Season 8 premier of Basketball Wives Wednesday night where she said he “could’ve died.” What happened was he was diagnosed with a right anomalous coronary artery. Stanford Health Care says it’s a congenital condition can cause “chest pain, heart failure or even sudden cardiac death” if left undiagnosed. He had to have open heart surgery last October to correct this… at 18 years old.

“[It’s] an artery that just grows in the wrong place,” Shaunie said on the show, which she created and produces. “He was born with it. He could’ve died from it. They let us know Shareef needed open-heart surgery. That made my heart break.”

Shareef returned to the court in March and started his team workouts in May after losing a whopping 25 pounds. And that’s from a person that was already quite small. “When you go from just not doing anything to try to playing basketball, stop-and-go contact, full workouts, it’s almost like zero-to-60,” the team’s new coach Mick Cronin said last month. “He’s obviously got monitors all over him. Obviously, if he wasn’t cleared, he wouldn’t be out here. It’s just a matter of getting his wind back up and his strength. He lost 25 pounds. That’ll come. “He’s just working through it all. But he’s been great. Really impressed with his skill level.”

Shaunie described the situation as “definitely the hardest thing we’ve ever had to face in our lives.” Shareef is seen walking around a week after his procedure. She had a heart fundraiser on the episode and encouraged everyone to “get your heart checked.”

This is a lot for a teenager and for all the things to worry about with a child that’s an athlete and just starting his life at that age, one can only imagine what they went through. We’re just glad he’s doing better now.