Shaquille Rashaun “Shaq” O’Neal (born March 6, 1972) is an American former professional basketball player who is a sports analyst on the television program Inside the NBA on TNT. He is widely 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.
Following his time at Louisiana State University, O’Neal was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft. He quickly became one of the best centers in the league, winning Rookie of the Year in 1992–93 and leading his team to the 1995 NBA Finals. After four years with the Magic, O’Neal signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers. They won three consecutive championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Amid tension between O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004, and his fourth NBA championship followed in 2006. Midway through the 2007–2008 season he was traded to the Phoenix Suns. After a season-and-a-half with the Suns, O’Neal was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2009–10 season. O’Neal played for the Boston Celtics in the 2010–11 season before retiring.
O’Neal’s individual accolades include the 1999–2000 MVP award, the 1992–93 NBA Rookie of the Year award, 15 All-Star game selections, three All-Star Game MVP awards, three Finals MVP awards, two scoring titles, 14 All-NBA team selections, and three NBA All-Defensive Team selections. He is one of only three players to win NBA MVP, All-Star game MVP and Finals MVP awards in the same year (2000); the other players are Willis Reed in 1970 and Michael Jordan in 1996 and 1998. He ranks 8th all-time in points scored, 6th in field goals, 15th in rebounds, and 8th in blocks. Due to his ability to dunk the basketball and score from close range, O’Neal also ranks third all-time in field goal percentage (58.2%). O’Neal was elected into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016. He was elected to the FIBA Hall of Fame in 2017.
In addition to his basketball career, O’Neal has released four rap albums, with his first, Shaq Diesel, going platinum. O’Neal is also an electronic music producer, and touring DJ, known as DIESEL. He has appeared in numerous films and has starred in his own reality shows, Shaq’s Big Challenge and Shaq Vs.. He hosts The Big Podcast with Shaq. He is also the general manager of Kings Guard Gaming of the NBA 2K League.
O’Neal was born on March 6, 1972, in Newark, New Jersey, to Lucille O’Neal and Joe Toney, who played high school basketball (he was an All-State guard) and was offered a basketball scholarship to play at Seton Hall. 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 remained estranged from his biological father for decades; O’Neal had not spoken with Toney or expressed an interest in establishing a relationship. On his 1994 rap album, Shaq Fu: The Return, O’Neal voiced his feelings of disdain for Toney in the song “Biological Didn’t Bother”, dismissing him with the line “Phil is my father.” However, O’Neal’s feelings toward Toney mellowed in the years following Harrison’s death in 2013, and the two met for the first time in March 2016, with O’Neal telling him, “I don’t hate you. I had a good life. I had Phil.”
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. He was later inducted into the LSU Hall of Fame. A 900-pound bronze statue of O’Neal is located in front of the LSU Tigers Basketball Practice Facility.
O’Neal was raised by a Baptist mother and a Muslim stepfather. Both Robin Wright in her book Rock the Casbah as well as the Los Angeles Times have identified O’Neal as a Muslim. However, O’Neal has said, “I’m Muslim, I’m Jewish, I’m Buddhist, I’m everybody ’cause I’m a people person.”
Marriage to Shaunie
O’Neal married Shaunie Nelson on December 26, 2002. The couple have four children: Shareef, Amirah, Shaqir, and Me’arah. Nelson also has one son from a previous relationship, Myles. On September 4, 2007, O’Neal filed for divorce from Shaunie in a Miami-Dade Circuit court. Shaunie later said that the couple had gotten back together and that the divorce was withdrawn. However, on November 10, 2009, Shaunie filed an intent to divorce, citing irreconcilable differences.
In 2015, Shareef was seen in high school basketball highlights as a 6-foot-7-inch (2.01 m) freshman power forward, and had been described to have “polar opposite playing style to his father” due to his more athletic build and better shooting range. Shareef, later rated as a top-30 prospect in the recruiting class of 2018, had committed to play college basketball at the University of Arizona, but rescinded the commitment in February 2018 after Arizona head coach Sean Miller was linked to potential major violations of NCAA recruiting rules.
O’Neal has a daughter from a previous relationship with his ex-girlfriend Arnetta Yardbourgh, Taahirah O’Neal.
In summer 2010, O’Neal began dating reality TV star Nicole “Hoopz” Alexander. The couple resided at O’Neal’s home in Sudbury, Massachusetts and later split in 2012.
Since 2014, O’Neal has been dating Laticia Rolle, a model, originally from Gardner, Massachusetts.
Outside of basketball
In June 2005 when Hall of Fame center George Mikan died, O’Neal, who considered Mikan to be a major influence, extended an offer to his family to pay all of the funeral expenses, which they accepted.
O’Neal is a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.
O’Neal is a 2009 inductee of the New Jersey Hall of Fame. O’Neal became a Freemason in 2011, becoming a member of Widow’s Son Lodge No. 28 in Boston. O’Neal is a Prince Hall Freemason.
On January 31, 2012, O’Neal was honored as one of the 35 Greatest McDonald’s All-Americans.
O’Neal is a fan of the National Hockey League’s New Jersey Devils, who play in his hometown of Newark, and has been seen at several games over the years. On January 11, 2014, O’Neal performed the ceremonial first puck and drove a Zamboni for a game between the Devils and the Florida Panthers. O’Neal is also a fan of English football club Northampton Town, and has posted videos of support to their official YouTube page.
O’Neal endorsed Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie in his 2013 reelection bid, appearing in a television advertisement.