1972-03-06 to Present
U.S.Shaquille Rashaun "Shaq" O'Neal (born March 6, 1972) is a retired professional American basketball player who is a sports analyst on the television program Inside the NBA on TNT. He is considered one of the greatest players in National Basketball Association (NBA) history. At 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) tall and 325 pounds (147 kg), he was one of the tallest and heaviest players ever. O'Neal played for six teams over his 19-year career.
Toney struggled with drug addiction and was imprisoned for drug possession when O'Neal was an infant. Upon his release, he did not resume a place in O'Neal's life and instead agreed to relinquish his parental rights to O'Neal's Jamaican stepfather, Phillip A. Harrison, a career Army sergeant.
O'Neal credits the Boys and Girls Club of America in Newark with giving him a safe place to play and keeping him off the streets. "It gave me something to do," he said. "I'd just go there to shoot. I didn't even play on a team." Because of his stepfather's career in the military, the family left Newark, moving to military bases in Germany and Texas.
At Robert G. Cole High School in San Antonio, Texas, O'Neal led his team to a 68–1 record over two years and helped the team win the state championship during his senior year. His 791 rebounds during the 1989 season remains a state record for a player in any classification. O'Neal's tendency to make hook shots earned comparisons to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, inspiring him to wear the same jersey number as Abdul-Jabbar, 33. However, his high school team did not have a 33 jersey, so O'Neal chose to wear 32 before college.
After graduating from high school, O'Neal studied business at Louisiana State University. He had first met Dale Brown, LSU's men's basketball coach, years earlier in Europe when O'Neal's stepfather was stationed on a U.S. Army base at Wildflecken, West Germany. While playing for Brown at LSU, O'Neal was a two-time All-American, two-time SEC Player of the Year, and received the Adolph Rupp Trophy as NCAA men's basketball player of the year in 1991; he was also named college player of the year by AP and UPI. O'Neal left LSU early to pursue his NBA career, but continued his education even after becoming a professional player.
Beginning in 1993, O'Neal began to compose rap music. He released five studio albums and 1 compilation album. Although his rapping abilities were criticized at the outset, one critic credited him with "progressing as a rapper in small steps, not leaps and bounds".
The Magic finished 41–41, winning 20 more games than the previous season, but missed the playoffs by virtue of a tie-breaker with the Indiana Pacers. On more than one occasion during the year, Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum overheard O'Neal saying, "We've got to get [head coach] Matty [Guokas] out of here and bring in [assistant] Brian [Hill]."
On November 20, 1993, against the New Jersey Nets, O'Neal registered the first triple-double of his career, recording 24 points to go along with career highs of 28 rebounds and 15 blocks.
In 1994, O'Neal made several appearances in World Championship Wrestling (WCW), including at the Bash at the Beach pay per view, where he presented the title belt to the winner of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship match between Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair.
While in college, O'Neal was considered for the Dream Team to fill the college spot, but it eventually went to future teammate Christian Laettner. His national team career began in the 1994 FIBA World Championship in which he was named MVP of the Tournament. While he led the Dream Team II to the gold medal with an 8–0 record, O'Neal averaged 18 points and 8.5 rebounds and recorded two double-doubles. In four games, he scored more than 20 points. Before 2010, he was the last active American player to have a gold from the FIBA World Cup.
In O'Neal's third season, 1994–95, he led the NBA in scoring with a 29.3 point average, while finishing second in MVP voting to David Robinson and entering his third straight All-Star Game along with Hardaway. They formed one of the league's top duos and helped Orlando to a 57–25 record and the Atlantic Division crown. The Magic won their first ever playoff series against the Boston Celtics in the 1995 NBA Playoffs. They then defeated the Chicago Bulls in the conference semifinals. After beating Reggie Miller's Indiana Pacers, the Magic reached the NBA Finals, facing the defending NBA champion Houston Rockets. O'Neal played well in his first Finals appearance, averaging 28 points on 59.5% shooting, 12.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. Despite this, the Rockets, led by future Hall-of-Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, swept the series in four games.
O'Neal was one of two players (the other being Reggie Miller) from the 1994 roster to be also named to the Dream Team III. Due to more star-power, he rotated with Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson and started 3 games. He averaged 9.3 points and 5.3 rebounds with 8 total blocks. Again, a perfect 8–0 record landed him another gold medal at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. O'Neal was upset that coach Lenny Wilkens played Robinson more minutes in the final game; Wilkens previously explained to O'Neal that it would probably be Robinson's last Olympics.
On December 17, 1996, O'Neal shoved Dennis Rodman of the Chicago Bulls; Rodman's teammates Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan restrained Rodman and prevented further conflict. The Los Angeles Daily News reported that O'Neal was willing to be suspended for fighting Rodman, and O'Neal said: "It's one thing to talk tough and one thing to be tough."
The Lakers won 56 games during the 1996–97 season. O'Neal averaged 26.2 points and 12.5 rebounds in his first season with Los Angeles; however, he again missed over 30 games due to injury. The Lakers made the playoffs, but were eliminated in the second round by the Utah Jazz in five games.
In 1999, prior to the 1999–2000 season, the Lakers hired Phil Jackson as head coach, and the team's fortunes soon changed. Jackson immediately challenged O'Neal, telling him "the [NBA's] MVP trophy should be named after him when he retired."
With the tandem of O'Neal and teenage superstar Kobe Bryant, expectations for the Lakers increased. However, personnel changes were a source of instability during the 1998–99 season. Long-time Laker point guard Nick Van Exel was traded to the Denver Nuggets; his former backcourt partner Eddie Jones was packaged with back-up center Elden Campbell for Glen Rice to satisfy a demand by O'Neal for a shooter. Coach Del Harris was fired, and former Lakers forward Kurt Rambis finished the season as head coach. The Lakers finished with a 31–19 record during the lockout-shortened season. Although they made the playoffs, they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs, led by Tim Duncan and David Robinson in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. The Spurs would go on to win their first NBA title in 1999.
After his 1996 experience, he declined to play in international competition. He was angered by being overlooked for the 1999 FIBA AmeriCup squad, saying it was a "lack of respect". The 1999 Tournament of the Americas, later known as the FIBA Americas Championship and the FIBA AmeriCup (also known as Las Americas Tournament for Men, the FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament, or Panamerican Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men), was a basketball championship hosted by Puerto Rico, from July 14 to July 25, 1999. The games were played in San Juan, at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum. This FIBA AmeriCup was to earn the two berths allocated to the Americas for the 2000 Olympics, in Sydney, Australia. The United States won the tournament, the country's fourth AmeriCup championship.
He appeared in cameo roles in the films Freddy Got Fingered, Jack and Jill and Scary Movie 4. O'Neal appeared in the 311 music video for the hit single "You Wouldn't Believe" in 2001, in P. Diddy's video for "Bad Boy for Life", the video for Aaron Carter's "That's How I Beat Shaq", the video for Owl City's "Vanilla Twilight" and the video for Maroon 5's "Don't Wanna Know". O'Neal appeared in the movie CB4 in a small "interviewing" scene. O'Neal appeared in a SportsCenter commercial dressed in his Miami police uniform, rescuing Mike the Tiger from a tree. O'Neal reportedly wanted a role in the film X2 (the second in the X-Men film series), but was ignored by the filmmakers. O'Neal appeared as Officer Fluzoo in the comedy sequel Grown Ups 2.
O'Neal was also voted the 1999–2000 regular season Most Valuable Player, one vote short of becoming the first unanimous MVP in NBA history. Fred Hickman, then of CNN, instead chose Allen Iverson, then of the Philadelphia 76ers who would go on to win MVP the next season. O'Neal also won the scoring title while finishing second in rebounds and third in blocked shots. Jackson's influence resulted in a newfound commitment by O'Neal to defense, resulting in his first All-Defensive Team selection (second-team) in 2000.[
In the 2001 NBA Finals against the 76ers, O'Neal fouled out in Game 3 backing over Dikembe Mutombo, the 2000–2001 Defensive Player of the Year. "I didn't think the best defensive player in the game would be flopping like that. It's a shame that the referees buy into that", O'Neal said. "I wish he'd stand up and play me like a man instead of flopping and crying every time I back him down.
Matched up against the Sacramento Kings in the 2002 Western Conference finals, O'Neal said, "There is only one way to beat us. It starts with c and ends with t." O'Neal meant "cheat" in reference to the alleged flopping of Kings' center Vlade Divac. O'Neal referred to Divac as "she", and said he would never exaggerate contact to draw a foul. "I'm a guy with no talent who has gotten this way with hard work."
In January 2002, Shaq was involved in a spectacular on-court brawl in a game against the Chicago Bulls. He punched center Brad Miller after an intentional foul to prevent a basket, resulting in a melee with Miller, forward Charles Oakley, and several other players.
At the beginning of the 2003–04 season, O'Neal wanted a contract extension with a pay raise on his remaining three years for $30 million. The Lakers had hoped O'Neal would take less money due to his age, physical conditioning, and games missed due to injuries. During a preseason game, O'Neal had yelled at Lakers owner Jerry Buss, "Pay me."
The Lakers made the playoffs in 2004 and lost to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals. Lakers assistant coach Tex Winter said, "Shaq defeated himself against Detroit. He played way too passively. He had one big game ... He's always interested in being a scorer, but he hasn't had nearly enough concentration on defense and rebounding."
O'Neal maintained a high level of interest in the workings of police departments and became personally involved in law enforcement. O'Neal went through the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Reserve Academy and became a reserve officer with the Los Angeles Port Police. On March 2, 2005, O'Neal was given an honorary U.S. Deputy Marshal title and named the spokesman for the Safe Surfin' Foundation; he served an honorary role on the task force of the same name, which tracks down sexual predators who target children on the Internet.
O'Neal played in 73 games (in 2004-05 Season), his most since 2001 season, averaged 22.9 points a game along with 10.4 rebounds and 2.3 blocks. Shaq also made his 12th consecutive All-Star Team, made the All-NBA 1st Team, and won the Eastern Conference player of the Month award for his performance in March.
In the second game of the 2005–06 season, O'Neal injured his right ankle and subsequently missed the following 18 games. Upon O'Neal's return, Van Gundy resigned, citing family reasons, and Pat Riley assumed head coach responsibilities.
Upon his trade to Miami, O'Neal began training to become a Miami Beach reserve officer. On December 8, 2005, he was sworn in, but elected for a private ceremony to avoid distracting attention from the other officers. He assumed a $1 per year salary in this capacity.
When the Lakers faced the Heat on January 16, 2006, O'Neal and Bryant made headlines by engaging in handshakes and hugs before the game, an event that was believed to signify the end of the so-called "Bryant–O'Neal feud" that had festered since the center left Los Angeles.
In the 2006 Finals, the Heat were underdogs against the Dallas Mavericks led by Dirk Nowitzki, and the Mavericks won the first two games at home in dominating fashion. The Heat led by Wade and a balanced effort by O'Neal, Antoine Walker and Jason Williams would go on to win all three of the next games at home, before closing out the series in Dallas to deliver the first NBA title for the franchise and O'Neal's fourth title. With Wade carrying the offensive load, O'Neal did not need to have a dominating series, and finished with an average of 13.7 points and 10.2 rebounds for the series.
O'Neal experienced a rough start for the 2007–08 season, averaging career lows in points, rebounds, and blocks. His role in the offense diminished, as he attempted only 10 field goals per game, versus his career average of 17. In addition, O'Neal was plagued by fouls, and during one stretch fouled out of five consecutive games. O'Neal's streak of 14 straight All-Star appearances ended that season.
O'Neal played 33 games for the Miami Heat in the 2007–08 season prior to being traded to the Phoenix Suns. O'Neal started all 33 games and averaged 14.2 points per game. Following the trade to Phoenix, O'Neal averaged 12.9 ppg while starting all 28 games with the Suns.
O'Neal made his Suns debut on February 20, 2008, against his former Lakers team, scoring 15 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in the process. The Lakers won, 130–124. O'Neal was upbeat in a post-game press conference, stating: "I will take the blame for this loss because I wasn't in tune with the guys [...] But give me four or five days to really get in tune and I'll get it."
However, on June 22, 2008, O'Neal freestyled a diss rap about Bryant in a New York club. While rapping, O'Neal blamed Bryant for his divorce from his wife Shaunie and claims to have received a vasectomy, as part of a rhyme. He also taunted Bryant for not being able to win a championship without him. O'Neal led the audience to mockingly chant several times "Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes."
In a match-up against Orlando on March 3, 2009, O'Neal was outscored by Magic center Dwight Howard, 21–19. "I'm really too old to be trying to outscore 18-year-olds", O'Neal said, referring to the then 23-year-old Howard.
The 2008–09 season improved for O'Neal, who averaged 18 pts, 9 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks through the first half (41 games) of the season, leading the Suns to a 23–18 record and 2nd place in their division. He returned to the All-Star Game in 2009 and emerged as co-MVP along with ex-teammate Kobe Bryant.
On August 4, 2010, the Celtics announced that they had signed O'Neal. The contract was for two years at the veteran minimum salary for a total contract value of $2.8 million. O'Neal wanted the larger mid-level exception contract, but the Celtics chose instead to give it to Jermaine O'Neal. The Atlanta Hawks and the Dallas Mavericks also expressed interest but had stalled on O'Neal's salary demands.
Privately, he wanted to start, but kept it to himself. O'Neal missed games throughout the season due to an assortment of ailments to his right leg including knee, calf, hip, and Achilles injuries. The Celtics traded away center Kendrick Perkins in February partially due to the expectation that O'Neal would return to fill Perkins' role. The Celtics were 33–10 in games Perkins had missed during the year due to injury, and they were 19–3 in games that O'Neal played over 20 minutes. After requesting a cortisone shot, O'Neal returned April 3 after missing 27 games due to his Achilles; he played only five minutes due to a strained right calf. It was the last regular season game he would play that year.
On June 1, 2011, O'Neal announced his retirement via social media. On a short video on Twitter, O'Neal tweeted, "We did it. Nineteen years, baby. I want to thank you very much. That's why I'm telling you first. I'm about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon."
On June 3, 2011, O'Neal held a press conference at his home in Orlando to officially announce his retirement. O'Neal established himself as an overpowering low post presence, putting up career averages of 23.7 points on .582 field goal accuracy, 10.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game.
On July 14, 2011, O'Neal announced that he would join Turner Network Television (TNT) as an analyst on its NBA basketball games, joining Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley.
Toward the end of his playing career, he began work on an educational doctorate at Barry University. His doctoral capstone topic was "The Duality of Humor and Aggression in Leadership Styles". O'Neal received his Ed.D. degree in Human Resource Development in 2012.
In September 2015 whilst promoting sportswear giant Reebok in South Korea, O'Neal joined the cast in the South Korean variety television show Off to School where he went to Seo Incheon High School. The show features various celebrities attending a selected high school as students for three days.
He voiced animated versions of himself on several occasions, including in the animated series Static Shock (2014; episode "Static Shaq"), in Johnny Bravo (1997; episode "Back on Shaq"), in Uncle Grandpa (2014; episode "Perfect Kid"), and in The Lego Movie (2014). He also had a voice over role in the 2013 film The Smurfs 2.
In June 2015, O'Neal invested in technology startup Loyale3 Holdings Inc., a San Francisco brokerage firm whose website and mobile app enables companies to sell a piece of their IPOs directly to small investors who put up as a little as $100 and also allows investors to regularly buy small amounts of shares in already public companies.
In April 2016, O'Neal participated in his first ever match, when he was a surprise celebrity entry in the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32. O'Neal eliminated Damien Sandow, and had another confrontation with Big Show before being eliminated himself by most of the other wrestlers.
In July at the 2016 ESPY Awards on the red carpet, Big Show and O'Neal had another brief confrontation. A match was proposed for WrestleMania 33, which O'Neal accepted. In January 2017, the two began calling each other out on social media, posting workout videos of themselves preparing for the potential match. After weeks of discussion, the match was cancelled. According to Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the match was canceled due to monetary reasons, as both parties could not agree on a deal. Big Show later stated it was scheduling issues on O'Neal's part that caused the cancellation.
The Heat eventually retired O'Neal's jersey on December 22, 2016, during halftime of a game against his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers. On February 26, 2016, the Miami Heat announced that it would retire O'Neal's No. 32 jersey during the 2016–17 season, making O'Neal one of just 32 athletes in American professional sports history to have their jersey retired by multiple teams.