Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
Currently Known For:
Sports Analyst and Retired Basketball Player
“Excellence is not a singular act, but a habit. You are what you repeatedly do.” Whether you know him as “Superman, “The Diesel,” or “The Big Aristotle,” Shaquille O’Neal is one of the biggest names in basketball and is certainly among the largest thanks to his towering 7’1” height and 325-pound frame. Affectionately known as “Shaq,” he launched his career at Louisiana State University in the late 1980s before he was drafted as the first overall pick in the 1992 NBA draft by the Orlando Magic. After a successful four-season run with the Magic, he spent eight seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers where he became a three-time NBA champion before donning a Miami Heat jersey from 2004 to 2008. Taking home another NBA championship title in 2006, he rounded out the end of his career with the Phoenix Suns (2008-2009), the Cleveland Cavaliers (2009-2010), and the Boston Celtics (2010-2011).
Amid his incredible success on the hardwoods, Shaq earned numerous honors including three Finals MVP awards, one NBA Rookie of the Year Award in 1992, and three All-Star Game MVP Awards. In 2016, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and, in 2017, was honored with an induction into the FIBA Hall of Fame. Along the way, Shaq proved his talents didn’t stop on the court as he dabbled in acting and music, first releasing his debut rap album Shaq Diesel in 1993. He joined the reality television circuit in the new millennium with Shaq Vs and Shaq’s Big Challenge in addition to hosting his podcast, The Big Podcast. But, that’s not all! The 46-year-old is the general manager of Kings Guard Gaming League of the NBA 2K and recently joined Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith as a sports analyst on TNT’s Inside the NBA. So, how does he make time for it all? Let’s take a closer look at Shaq’s stellar career and his dream of taking Hollywood by storm!
“My father made me who I am. He gave me a basketball and told me to play with the ball, sleep with the ball, dream with the ball. Just don’t take it to school. I used it as a pillow, and it never gave me a stiff neck.” Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal came into this world on March 6, 1972 in Newark, New Jersey where his father, Joe Toney, was a high school basketball star who earned a scholarship to Seton Hall. Sadly, Joe never saw his basketball dreams come true and struggled with drug addiction throughout his life, ultimately serving prison time for drug possession for much of Shaq’s early life. By the time he was released from prison, Joe had relinquished all his parental rights as Shaq knew his stepfather, army sergeant Phillip A. Harrison, as his father.
Growing up in Newark, Shaq stayed out of trouble and away from violent crowds by playing basketball at the Boys and Girls Club of America. “I’d just go there to shoot,” he said. “I didn’t even play on a team.” Eventually, the family left Newark to follow his father’s military career to Germany before they settled down in San Antonio, Texas where Shaq attended Robert G. Cole High School. By then, his early years playing basketball at the Boys and Girls Club in Newark finally paid off as he excelled on the hardwoods and led his team to victory at the state championship during his senior year.
After graduation, Shaq enrolled at Louisiana State University where he majored in business and spent the rest of his time playing basketball as an LSU Tiger under the direction of Coach Dale Brown. Even in college, he was a force to be reckoned with on the court and earned two All-American honors, two SEC Player of the Year Awards, and the 1991 NCAA Player of the Year Award. Before he could even finish college, Shaq was eager to pursue a professional basketball career in the NBA and, with the blessing of his family and coach, he entered the 1992 NBA Draft where he was the first overall pick by the Orlando Magic.
Scoring an average of 23 points per game during his rookie season, Shaq was named the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1993 and became the first rookie since Michael Jordan to be elected as an All-Star player. With each season, Shaq’s game improved and he led his team to the 1995 NBA Finals. Then, after four years with the Magic, he signed on as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996 and was named to the United States Olympic basketball team. Winning a gold medal at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Shaq returned home to ongoing success with the Lakers and led his team to win three consecutive NBA championship titles in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
Amid his jaw-dropping performance with the Lakers, Shaq was part of an ongoing feud with fellow Laker Kobe Bryant, a feud that lasted for years and even fueled Shaq’s next move to the Miami Heat in 2004. “Do you remember what you did during that game that made me realize I was s**t to you all those years?” Shaq asked Bryant during a 2018 interview. “So, we got the co-MVP. It’s me, Shareef [Shaq’s son] and you sat on that stage and what did you tell me to do? You told me to take the trophy home and give it to Shareef. And I realized I may have messed something up. A lot of times that our beef was going on, you know me, I’m the master marketer. I would just say it to keep it going. But when you did that when you didn’t have to do that, I said to myself, ‘Luckily, I won three out of four with this guy but I was an a** to this guy. So, I owe you an apology…”
Shaq settled in with the Miami Heat in 2004 and earned his fourth NBA championship title in 2006 before he was traded to the Phoenix Suns in 2008. After a season and a half with the Suns, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and then made one final move to the Boston Celtics from 2010 to 2011 before he officially retired. “We did it. Nineteen years, baby. I want to thank you very much,” Shaq said as he announced his retirement via social media. “That’s why I'm telling you first. I’m about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon.”Life Beyond the Court
Keeping the promise that he made to his mother to go back to school and earn his degree, Shaq graduated from LSU in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in general studies. He later earned his MBA degree from the University of Phoenix in 2005 and even started working toward his educational doctorate degree from Barry University. In 2012, he completed his Ed. D. degree in Human Resources Development and has hinted that he might one day enter law school.
Amid his ongoing education, Shaq made his interest in law enforcement well known and became a reserve officer with the Los Angeles Port Police after successfully completing the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Reserve Academy. He was named an honorary U.S. Deputy Marshal in 2005 and, upon his trade to Miami, became a Miami Beach reserve officer. As of 2016, Shaq was sworn in as a sheriff’s deputy in Jonesboro, Georgia.
Beyond education and law enforcement, Shaq also has a lot of business interests and launched his music career as a rapper in 1993 with the release of his debut album, Shaq Diesel. Over the years, he released four additional albums and ventured into acting with his first appearances in Blue Chips in 1994 and Kazaam in 1996. From there, he made appearances in Good Burger (1997), Steel (1997), He Got Game (1998), The Wash (2001), Freddy Got Fingered (2001), After the Sunset (2004), Scary Movie 4 (2006), and The House Bunny (2008). Over the last decade, he’s appeared in Jack and Jill (2011), Grown Ups 2 (2013), The Smurfs 2 (2013), The Lego Movie (2014), Blended (2014), Show Dogs (2018), and Uncle Drew (2018).
“I want to be as big as Rock,” Shaq says of his Hollywood aspirations. “We come from the same place: athletes that transition. That’s my goal. I want similar type movies. I want to get thrillers. I want to get dramas. I want to do comedies. I want to be the next Rock. I want to do a thriller where I’m like a hero and beat up all the bad guys.”
Adding in television credits in My Wife and Kids (2001), The Parkers (2002), The Bernie Mac Show (2003), WWE Raw (2009), Fresh Off the Boat (2015), and The Simpsons (2017), Shaq is also a trained mixed martial artist and a lifelong professional wrestling fan. He’s made several appearances in World Championship Wrestling and, in April 2016, saw one of his biggest dreams come true when he participated in his first match—a surprise celebrity match in the André the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at WrestleMania 32. However, nothing can truly top his current role as a sports analyst alongside Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, and Kenny Smith on Inside the NBA.
“The fact that we’re allowed to utilize humor on the show is one thing. Another is that the audience understands that we probably know what we’re talking about,” Shaq says of the show’s ongoing success and its impressive nine Emmy Awards. “Especially Chuck (Charles Barkley) and I. Hall of Famers, dominant players. We get it. Then Ernie Johnson is the ringleader who keeps us all in line. What Ernie does is also well respected. And then Kenny Smith is the guy who played on championship teams. He sees it from the other side. I think that chemistry makes us believable.”
Despite his many interests, Shaq is perhaps best known for his numerous business ventures that have earned him a massive net worth and kept him uncommonly busy for a retired NBA star. “Seventy percent of all professional athletes have nothing, not even a job, after they’re done,” Shaq says. “The fact that I couldn’t even call a franchise to get an interview to be a coach frightened me. So, nothing was simple. Educate yourself, be nice to people, and save your money. If you do that, you should be OK.” What’s also helped Shaq is that he’s a smart investor who’s made investments in big companies like General Electric, PepsiCo., and Apple over the years. In the last few years, he invested in the technology startup, Loyale3 Holdings Inc., but his most recent investment was a Krispy Kreme franchise in Atlanta, Georgia, which is likely to make a huge profit since Shaq is now the company’s global spokesman.Personal Relationships: The Family Man
While Shaq played a big game on the court, he is a dedicated family man who takes great pride in his children. In 2002, he married Shaunie Nelson and spent the next five years raising their four children—Shareef, Amirah, Shaqir, and Mearah—before he filed for divorce in 2007. In the years since their divorce, Shaq has dated reality television star Nicole “Hoopz” Alexander and, since 2014, has been in a committed relationship with model Laticia Rolle.
“My number one duty right now is to be a father and do the right thing,” Shaq says of how his life has changed since retiring from the NBA. “It’s good that my kids look at me as Shaq, but I hope they look at me like, ‘Wow, my daddy was smart, and did this, and did that.’ Because when I was young, every time an athlete got in trouble, my father would punish me. True story. He’d punish me every time a guy lost money. I learned from everybody’s else’s mistakes. ‘Go cut the grass!’ he’d say. I actually thanked him for it—I wish he was still here. I would still continue to thank him. That’s how I learned. Because 60 percent of us, after we’re done, we don’t have any income.” Fortunately, Shaq has proven he’s the exception to the rule especially with a net worth of $400 million and counting!