One of The Most Iconic Basketball Players in NBA History
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal (March 6, 1972) is a retired American professional basketball player with a career that stretches nearly 20 years. His intimidating stature at over 7 feet tall and weight at nearly 320 lbs. makes him one of the heaviest basketball players in history. O’Neal was allowed an easy way into the NBA during his early twenties, and soon became known for being one of the most dominant players in the history of the league.
Shaquille O’Neal dominated basketball in his high school and college days, having set several school records. During his time with the LSU Tigers, Shaq set some of the most impressive school records for points scored and rebounds , which resulted in him being named as College Basketball Player of the Year. These records stand the test of time.
Given his impressive lineup of state records and accolades, O’Neal seamlessly transitioned to the NBA. In 1992, he was drafted first overall by the Orlando Magic, being one spot ahead of future teammate Alonzo Mourning. O’Neal was to make an immediate impact on the sports.
He averaged over 23 points per game and 14 rebounds per game during his rookie year, winning the first rookie all-star since Michael Jordan and the NBA Rookie of the Year. Shaq would go on to become a regular feature on national headlines with his explosive gameplay style, the most noteworthy being his thunderous double-handed slam dunk against the Knicks on February 28, 1995.
O’Neal led the Orlando magic to a 41-41 record , an impressive 20 wins better than the last season. Two years later, he won the scoring championship and helped Orlando Magic qualify for the finals against the Houston Rockets, only to suffer a heavy defeat. This was a career turning point for the giant and he became well known for losing big games.
Given his stature and strength, it was virtually impossible for most players to oppose him on the offensive. O’Neal, however, had one major flaw: he was not good with free-throws. His opponents would often capitalize on this weakness and developed a strategy, dubbed as the “Hack-a-Shaq ”, to intentionally foul him knowing he wouldn’t make good free throws.
O’Neal represented the US in its 1996 Olympic basketball game and helped the team win their gold medal . That same year, he signed up with the Los Angeles Lakers where he teamed up with the then up-coming-star Kobe Bryant. While O’Neal’s dominance in offense began to grow, his team would continue to perform poorly in the play-offs. It wasn’t until Phil Jackson’s appointment to the team as coach when O’Neal learned the value of teamwork.
O’Neal worked on his defense, free-throw shooting, and rebounding skills which led to the Lakers entering the upper echelons of the league. Under O’Neal’s newfound skills, the Lakers would consecutively win the championships in 2001, 2002, and 2003, and capturing the final MVP award in those years.
His feud with fellow-superstar Kobe Bryant was a source of major conflict for the Lakers, resulting in O’Neal being traded to the Miami Heat. There, O’Neal worked with Dwayne Wade to take Miami to an NBA championship in 2006 . After sustaining numerous injuries, O’Neal’s career was on its last legs and he signed up with the Phoenix Suns in February 2008 .
His explosive playstyle wasn’t compatible with the Suns’ playing style and – despite performing amazingly well in 2008-09 – he was traded with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2009. By then O’Neal had accumulated several injuries that limited his ability to perform on the court, including a career-ending injury to his Achilles tendon. O’Neal had to retire after the 2010-11 season . He had accumulated 28,596 points (the 7th highest in NBA history when he retired) and 15 All-Star Game selections.
O’Neal was enshrined to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016 .
Because of his immense stardom, O’Neal was able to transition into other fields of entertainment, including music, acting, and even comedy. He worked in feature films such as Blue Chips (1994), Kazaam (1996), and Steel (1997). He also became a voice actor in the animated flick The LEGO Movie (2014).
Shaquille O’Neal Biography – Family Life
Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal was born on March 6, 1972 in Newark, New Jersey to Lucille O’Neal and former basketball player, Joe Toney.
When he was still an infant, his father, Toney, was sent to prison for possession of drugs. O’Neal was two years old when his mother married Philip Harrison , a sergeant in the US Army. The two families integrated well with each other and included Harrison’s younger daughters Ayesha and Lateefa who became step-sisters to O’Neal. Philip Harrison died in 2013.
Toney would often reach out to his son by making appearances on television, most noteworthy being the Ricki Lake show. O’Neal didn’t want anything to with his father back then recorded his diss song, “Biological Didn’t Bother” which had this punchline, “Phil is my father”.
O’Neal completed his graduation from Rober G. Cole High School in San Antonio, Texas and went in to study business at Louisiana State University.
O’Neal married Shaunie Nelson on December 26, 2002, and have four children together, Shareef, Amirah, Shaqir, and Me’arah. The couple filed for divorce in 2007. O’Neal blamed the divorce on Bryant in a freestyle diss rap at a New York club. O’Neal also has a daughter from a past relationship with ex-girlfriend Arnetta Yardborough , named Taahirah O’Neal.
Organizations & Charities
Shaq O’Neal actively donates his time and money to charitable causes, including his $1 million donation to the Boys and Girls Club of America. He is an active member of the Board of Directors for Communities in Schools.