O'Neal at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, January 14, 2009
|No. 32, 34, 33, 36|
March 6, 1972 |
Newark, New Jersey
|Listed height||7 ft 1 in (2.16 m)|
|Listed weight||325 lb (147 kg)|
|High school||Robert G. Cole
(San Antonio, Texas)
|College||Louisiana State (1989–1992)|
|NBA Draft||1992 / Round: 1 / Pick: 1st overall|
|Selected by the Orlando Magic|
|1996–2004||Los Angeles Lakers|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Points||28,596 (23.7 ppg)|
|Rebounds||13,099 (10.9 rpg)|
|Blocks||2,732 (2.3 bpg)|
|Stats at NBA.com|
|Stats at Basketball-Reference.com|
Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal (pron.: // shə-KEEL; born March 6, 1972), nicknamed "Shaq" (pron.: // SHAK), is an American retired basketball player, former rapper and current analyst on the television program Inside the NBA. Standing 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) tall and weighing 325 pounds (147 kg), he was one of the heaviest players ever to play in the NBA. Throughout his 19-year career, O'Neal used his size and strength to overpower opponents for points and rebounds.
Following his career 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 top centers in the league, winning Rookie of the Year in 1992–93 and later 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. He 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 6th all-time in points scored, 5th in field goals, 13th in rebounds, and 7th in blocks.
In addition to his basketball career, O'Neal has released four rap albums, with his first, Shaq Diesel, going platinum. He has appeared in numerous films and has starred in his own reality shows, Shaq's Big Challenge and Shaq Vs..
O'Neal was born in Newark, New Jersey. He remains estranged from his biological father, Joseph Toney of Newark. Toney, who was once an All-State guard in high school who was offered a basketball scholarship to play at Seton Hall, struggled with drug addiction and was, by 1973, imprisoned for drug possession when O'Neal was an infant. Upon his release, Toney did not resume a place in O'Neal's life and instead, agreed to relinquish his parental visitation rights to O'Neal's stepfather, Phillip A. Harrison, a career Army Reserve sergeant, and his mother, Lucille (née O'Neal). O'Neal and Toney have never spoken, and O'Neal has expressed no 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."
O'Neal credits the Boys and Girls Club of America in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey, 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." He led his Robert G. Cole High School team, from San Antonio, Texas, to a 68–1 record during his two years there 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.
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. 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. 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.
The Orlando Magic drafted O'Neal with the 1st overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. During that summer, prior to moving to Orlando, he spent a significant amount of time in Los Angeles under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. During his rookie season, O'Neal averaged 23.4 points on 56.2% shooting, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game for the season. He was named the 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year and became the first rookie to be voted an All-Star starter since Michael Jordan in 1985. The Magic finished 41–41, winning 20 more games than the previous season; however, the team ultimately 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]."
In 1993-1994, O'Neal's second season, Hill was the coach and Guokas was reassigned to the front office. O'Neal improved his scoring average to 29.4 points (second in the league to David Robinson) while leading the NBA in field goal percentage at 60%. 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. He was voted into the All-Star game and also made the All-NBA 3rd Team. Teamed with newly drafted Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, the Magic finished with a record of 50–32 and made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. In his first playoff series, O'Neal averaged 20.7 points and 13.3 rebounds in a losing effort as the Magic lost every game to the Indiana Pacers.
In 1994-1995, his third season, O'Neal's 29.3 point average led the NBA in scoring. He finished second in MVP voting to David Robinson and was voted into 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 semi-finals. 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 injured for a great deal of the 1995–96 season, missing 28 games. He averaged 26.6 points and 11 rebounds per game, made the All-NBA 3rd Team, and played in his 4th All-Star Game. Despite O'Neal's injuries, the Magic finished with a regular season record of 60–22, second in the Eastern conference to the Chicago Bulls, who finished with an NBA record 72 wins. Orlando easily defeated the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of the 1996 NBA Playoffs; however, they were no match for Jordan's Bulls, who swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals.
O'Neal became a free agent after the 95–96 NBA season. In the summer of 1996, O'Neal was named to the United States Olympic basketball team, and was later part of the gold medal-winning team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. While the Olympic basketball team was training in Orlando, the Orlando Sentinel published a poll that asked whether the Magic should fire Hill if that were one of O'Neal's conditions for returning. 82% answered "no". O'Neal had a power struggle while playing under Hill. He said the team "just didn't respect [Hill]." Another question in the poll asked, "Is Shaq worth $115 million?" in reference to the amount of the Magic's offer. 91.3% of the response was "no". O'Neal's Olympic teammates rode him hard over the poll. He was also upset that the Orlando media implied O'Neal was not a good role model for having a child with his longtime girlfriend with no immediate plans to marry. O'Neal compared his lack of privacy in Orlando to "feeling like a big fish in a dried-up pond." O'Neal also learned that Hardaway considered himself the leader of the Magic and did not want O'Neal making more money than him. On the team's first full day at the Olympics in Atlanta, it was announced that O'Neal would join the Los Angeles Lakers on a seven-year, $121 million contract. He insisted he did not choose Los Angeles for the money. "I'm tired of hearing about money, money, money, money, money," O'Neal said after the signing. "I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok," he added, referring to a couple of his product endorsements. 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. 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 following season, O'Neal averaged 28.3 points and 11.4 rebounds (1997-1998). He led the league with a 58.4 field goal percentage, the first of five consecutive seasons in which he did so. The Lakers finished the season 61–21, first in the Pacific Division, and were the second seed in the western conference during the 1998 NBA Playoffs. After defeating the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle SuperSonics in the first two rounds, the Lakers again fell to the Jazz, this time in a 4–0 sweep.
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.
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." Using Jackson's triangle offense, O'Neal and Bryant enjoyed tremendous success, leading the Lakers to three consecutive titles (2000, 2001, and 2002). O'Neal was named MVP of the NBA Finals all three times and had the highest scoring average for a center in NBA Finals history. In the November 10, 1999, game against the Houston Rockets, O'Neal and Charles Barkley were ejected. After O'Neal blocked a layup by Barkley, O'Neal shoved Barkley, who then threw the ball at O'Neal.
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.
In the summer of 2001, holding a basketball camp on the campus of Louisiana State University, O'Neal was challenged to a friendly wrestling match by future LSU and NBA player Glen "Big Baby" Davis, then 15 years of age and attending high school. O'Neal, weighing 350 lb (160 kg; 25 st), was impressed by the youngster, who lifted and body-slammed him to the ground. A month before the 2001–02 season's training camp, O'Neal had corrective surgery for a claw toe deformity in the smallest toe of his left foot. He opted against a more involved surgery to return quicker. He was ready for the start of the 2001-2002 regular season, but the toe frequently bothered him. In January 2002 he 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. O'Neal was suspended for three games without pay and fined $15,000. For the season, O'Neal averaged 27.2 points and 10.7 rebounds, excellent statistics but below his career average; he was less of a defensive force during the season.
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." After the 2001-2002 season, O'Neal told friends that he did not want another season of limping and being in virtually constant pain from his big right toe. His trademark mobility and explosion had been often absent. The corrective options ranged from reconstructive surgery on the toe to rehabilitation exercises with more shoe inserts and anti-inflammation medication. O'Neal was already wary of the long-term damage his frequent consumption of these medications might have. He did not want to rush a decision with his career potentially at risk.
O'Neal missed the first 12 games of the 2002–2003 season recovering from toe surgery. He was sidelined with hallux rigidus, a degenerative arthritis in his toe. He waited the whole summer until just before training camp for the surgery and explained, "I got hurt on company time, so I’ll heal on company time." O'Neal debated whether to have a more invasive surgery that would have kept him out an additional three months, but he opted against the more involved procedure. The Lakers started the season with a record of 11–19. After the Lakers fell to the fifth seed and failed to reach the Finals in 2003, the team made a concerted off-season effort to improve its roster. They sought the free-agent services of forward Karl Malone and aging guard Gary Payton, but due to salary cap restrictions, could not offer either one nearly as much money as they could have made with some other teams. O'Neal assisted in the recruitment efforts and personally persuaded both men to join the squad. Ultimately, both signed, each forgoing larger salaries in favor of a chance to win an NBA championship, which neither had accomplished in his career (and which neither would achieve with the Lakers). 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." There had been increasing tension between O'Neal and Bryant, the feud climaxing on the eve of training camp prior to the 2003-2004 season when Kobe, in an interview with ESPN journalist Jim Gray, criticized Shaq for being out of shape, a poor leader, and putting his salary demands over the best interest of the Lakers.
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." After the series, O'Neal was angered by comments made by Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak regarding O'Neal's future with the club, as well as by the departure of Lakers coach Phil Jackson at the request of Buss. O'Neal made comments indicating that he felt the team's decisions were centered on a desire to appease Bryant to the exclusion of all other concerns, and O'Neal promptly demanded a trade. Kupchak wanted the Dallas Mavericks's Dirk Nowitzki in return but Cuban refused to let his 7-footer go. However, Miami showed interest and eventually the two clubs agreed. Winter said, "[O'Neal] left because he couldn't get what he wanted—a huge pay raise. There was no way ownership could give him what he wanted. Shaq's demands held the franchise hostage, and the way he went about it didn't please the owner too much."
On July 14, 2004, O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and a future first-round draft choice. O'Neal reverted from (his Lakers jersey) number 34 to number 32, which he had worn while playing for the Magic. Upon signing with the Heat, O'Neal promised the fans that he would bring a championship to Miami. He claimed one of the main reasons for wanting to be traded to Miami was because of their up-and-coming star, Dwyane Wade. With O'Neal on board, the new-look Heat surpassed expectations, claiming the best record in the Eastern Conference in 2004-2005. He averaged 22.9 ppg and 10.4 rpg, made his 12th consecutive All-Star Team, and made the All-NBA 1st Team. Despite being hobbled by a deep thigh bruise, O'Neal led the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals and a Game 7 against the defending champion Detroit Pistons, losing by a narrow margin. Afterwards, O'Neal and others criticized Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy for not calling enough plays for O'Neal. O'Neal also narrowly lost the 2004–05 MVP Award to Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash in one of the closest votes in NBA history.
In August 2005, O'Neal signed a 5-year-extension with the Heat for $100 million. Supporters applauded O'Neal's willingness to take what amounted to a pay cut and the Heat's decision to secure O'Neal's services for the long term. They contended that O'Neal was worth more than $20 million per year, particularly given that lesser players earned almost the same amount.
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. Many critics stated that Heat coach Riley correctly managed O'Neal during the rest of the season, limiting his minutes to a career low. Riley felt doing so would allow O'Neal to be healthier and fresher come playoff time. Although O'Neal averaged career lows (or near-lows) in points, rebounds, and blocks, he said in an interview "Stats don't matter. I care about winning, not stats. If I score 0 points and we win I'm happy. If I score 50, 60 points, break the records, and we lose, I'm pissed off. 'Cause I knew I did something wrong. I'll have a hell of a season if I win the championship and average 20 points a game." During the 2005–06 season, the Heat recorded only a .500 record without O'Neal in the line-up.
On April 11, 2006, O'Neal recorded his second career triple-double against the Toronto Raptors with 15 points, 11 rebounds and a career high 10 assists. O'Neal finished the 2005-2006 season as the league leader in field goal percentage.
In the 2006 NBA Playoffs, the Miami Heat won their first NBA Championship. Led by both O'Neal and eventual Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, the 2nd seeded Heat defeated the defending Eastern Conference Champion and top-seeded Detroit Pistons in a rematch of the prior year's Conference Finals. They then defeated the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals.
O'Neal put up considerably lower numbers in the 2005-2006 playoffs compared to those he recorded during the regular season, but he twice delivered dominant games in order to close out a playoff series: a 30 point, 20 rebound effort in Game 6 against the Chicago Bulls in the first round, and a 28 point, 16 rebound, 5 block effort in Game 6 against the Pistons. It was O'Neal's fourth title in seven seasons, and fulfilled his promise of delivering an NBA championship to Miami.
In the 2006–07 season, O'Neal missed 35 games after an injury to his left knee in November required surgery. After one of those missed games, a Christmas Day match-up against the Lakers, he ripped Jackson, who O'Neal had once called a second father, referring to his former coach as Benedict Arnold. Jackson had previously said, "The only person I've ever [coached] that hasn't been a worker ... is probably Shaq." The Heat struggled during O'Neal's absence, but with his return won seven of their next eight games. Bad luck still haunted the squad, however, as Wade dislocated his left shoulder, leaving O'Neal as the focus of the team. Critics doubted that O'Neal, now in his mid-thirties, could carry the team into the playoffs. The Heat went on a winning streak that kept them in the race for a playoff spot, which they finally secured against the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 5.
In a rematch of the year before, the Heat faced the Bulls in the first round of the 2006-2007 NBA playoffs. The Heat struggled against the Bulls and although O'Neal put up reasonable numbers, he was not able to dominate the series. The Bulls swept the Heat, the first time in 50 years a defending NBA champion was swept in the opening round. It was the first time in 13 years that O'Neal did not advance into the second round. In the 2006–07 season O'Neal reached 25,000 career points, becoming the 14th player in NBA history to accomplish that milestone. However, it was the first season in O'Neal's career that his scoring average dropped below 20 points per game.
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 again missed games due to injuries, and the Heat had a 15–game losing streak. According to O'Neal, Riley thought he was faking the injury. During a practice in February 2008, O'Neal got into an altercation with Riley over the coach ordering a tardy Jason Williams to leave practice. The two argued face-to-face, with O'Neal poking Riley in the chest and Riley slapping his finger away. Riley soon after decided to trade O'Neal. O'Neal said his relationship with Wade was not "all that good" by the time he left Miami, but he did not express disappointment at Wade for failing to stand up for him.
O'Neal played 33 games for the Miami Heat in the 2007-2008 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.
The Phoenix Suns acquired O'Neal in February 2008 from the league-worst Miami Heat, who had a record at the time of the trade of 9-37, in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks. 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."
In 28 regular-season games, O'Neal averaged 12.9 points and 10.6 rebounds, good enough to make the playoffs. One of the reasons for the trade was to limit Tim Duncan in the event of a postseason matchup between the Suns and the San Antonio Spurs, especially after the Suns' six-game elimination by the Spurs in the 2007 NBA Playoffs. O'Neal and the Phoenix Suns did face the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, but they were once again eliminated, in five games. O'Neal averaged 15.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game.
O'Neal preferred his new situation with the Suns over the Heat. "I love playing for this coach and I love playing with these guys," O'Neal said. "We have professionals who know what to do. No one is asking me to play with [his former Heat teammates] Chris Quinn or Ricky Davis. I'm actually on a team again." Riley felt O'Neal was wrong for maligning his former teammates. O'Neal responded with an expletive toward Riley, who he often referred to as the "great Pat Riley" while playing for the Heat. O'Neal credited the Suns training staff with prolonging his career. They connected his arthritic toe, which would not bend, to the alteration of his jump that consequently was straining his leg. The trainers had him concentrate on building his core strength, flexibility, and balance.
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 February 27, 2009, O'Neal scored 45 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, his 49th career 40-point game, beating the Toronto Raptors 133–113.
In a matchup 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. "It's not really my role anymore." O'Neal was double-teamed most of the night. "I like to play people one-on-one. My whole career I had to play people one-on-one. Never once had to double or ask for a double. But it's cool," said O'Neal. During the game, O'Neal flopped against Howard. Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who had coached O'Neal with the Heat, was "very disappointed cause [O'Neal] knows what it's like. Let's stand up and play like men, and I think our guy did that tonight." O'Neal responded, "Flopping is playing like that your whole career. I was trying to take the charge, trying to get a call. It probably was a flop, but flopping is the wrong use of words. Flopping would describe his coaching." Mark Madsen, a Lakers teammate of O'Neal's for three years, found it amusing since "everyone in the league tries to flop on Shaq and Shaq never flops back." In a 2006 interview in TIME, O'Neal said if he were NBA commissioner, he would "Make a guy have to beat a guy—not flop and get calls and be nice to the referees and kiss ass."
On March 6, O'Neal talked about the upcoming game against the Rockets and Yao Ming. “It’s not going to be man-on-man, so don’t even try that,” says O’Neal with an incredulous laugh. “They’re going to double and triple me like everybody else ... I rarely get to play [Yao] one-on-one ... But when I play him (on defense), it’s just going to be me down there. So don’t try to make it a Yao versus Shaq thing, when it’s Shaq versus four other guys."
The 2009 NBA Playoffs was also the first time since O'Neal's rookie season in 1992–93 that he did not participate in the playoffs. He was named as a member of the All-NBA Third Team. The Suns notified O'Neal he might be traded to cut costs.
On June 25, 2009, O'Neal was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace, $500,000 and a 2010 second round draft pick. Upon arriving in Cleveland, O'Neal said, "My motto is very simple: Win a Ring for the King," referring to LeBron James. James was the leader of the team, and O'Neal deferred to him.
On Friday, February 25, 2010 O'Neal suffered a severe right thumb injury while attempting to go up for a shot against Glen Davis of the Boston Celtics. He had surgery on the thumb on March 1 and returned to play on April 17 in the first round playoff game against the Chicago Bulls.
O'Neal averaged career lows in almost every major statistical category, taking on a much less significant role than in previous years. His presence in the post was not as significant as in years past. After the retirement of Lindsey Hunter on March 5, O'Neal became the NBA’s oldest active player. He returned to the starting line-up in time for the 2010 NBA Playoffs. The Cavaliers swiftly defeated the Chicago Bulls in the first round, yet Cleveland became the first team in NBA history to miss the NBA Finals after laying claim to the NBA's top playoff seed for two consecutive seasons. On May 13, the Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs, losing to the Boston Celtics 4–2 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Upon hearing Bryant comment that he had more rings than O'Neal, Wyc Grousbeck, principal owner of the Celtics, saw an opportunity to acquire O'Neal. Celtics coach Doc Rivers agreed to the signing on the condition that O'Neal would not receive preferential treatment nor could he cause any locker room problems like in Los Angeles or Miami. 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. He was introduced by the Celtics on August 10, 2010, and chose the number 36.
O'Neal said he didn't "compete with little guys who run around dominating the ball, throwing up 30 shots a night—like D–Wade, Kobe." O'Neal added that he was only competing against Duncan: "If Tim Duncan gets five rings, then that gives some writer the chance to say 'Duncan is the best,' and I can't have that." Publicly, he insisted he did not care whether he started or substituted for the Celtics, but expected to be part of the second unit. 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. O'Neal missed the first round of the 2011 playoffs. He insisted on more cortisone shots and returned in the second round, but he was limited to 12 minutes in two games as the Heat eliminated the Celtics from the playoffs.
On June 1, 2011, O'Neal announced his retirement via social media. On a short tape 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.
While at LSU, O'Neal was considered for the Dream Team to fill the college spot, but it eventually went to future teammate Christian Laettner. His international career began in the 1994 FIBA World Championship in which he was named MVP of the Tournament. While he led 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 Championships.
He 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 points 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; Wilkins previously explained to O'Neal that it would probably be Robinson's last Olympics.
After his 1996 experience, he declined to play in international competition. He was angered by being overlooked for the FIBA Americas Championship 1999 squad, saying it was a "lack of respect". He forwent an opportunity to participate in the 2000 Olympics, explaining that two gold medals were enough. Shaq also chose not to play in the 2002 FIBA World Championship. He rejected an offer to play in the 2004 Olympics, and although he was initially interested in being named for 2006–2008 US preliminary roster, he eventually declined the invitation.
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 (as of April 2011).
O'Neal's "drop step", (called the "Black Tornado" by O'Neal) in which he posted up a defender, turned around and, using his elbows for leverage, powered past him for a very high-percentage slam dunk, proved an effective offensive weapon. In addition, O'Neal frequently used a right-handed jump hook shot to score near the basket. The ability to dunk contributed to his career field goal accuracy of .582, second only to Artis Gilmore as the highest field goal percentage of all time. He led the NBA in field goal percentage 10 times, breaking Wilt Chamberlain's record of nine.
Opposing teams often used up many fouls on O'Neal, reducing the playing time of their own big men. O'Neal's imposing physical presence inside the paint caused dramatic changes in many teams' offensive and defensive strategies.
O'Neal's primary weakness was his free-throw shooting, with a career average of 52.7%. He once missed all 11 free throws in a game against the Seattle SuperSonics on December 8, 2000, a record. O'Neal believes his free throw woes were a mental issue, as he often shot 80 percent in practice. In hope of exploiting O'Neal's poor foul shooting, opponents often committed intentional fouls against him, a tactic known as "Hack-a-Shaq". O'Neal was the third-ranked player all-time in free throws taken, having attempted 11,252 free-throws in 1,207 games up to and including the 2010–11 season. On December 25, 2008, O'Neal missed his 5,000th free throw, becoming the second player in NBA history to do so, along with Chamberlain.
On his own half of the hardwood, O'Neal was a capable defender, named three times to the All-NBA Second Defensive Team. His presence intimidated opposing players shooting near the basket, and he averaged 2.3 blocked shots per game over the course of his career.
Phil Jackson believed O'Neal underachieved in his career, saying he "could and should have been the MVP player for 10 consecutive seasons." The Lakers retired his No. 34 jersey on April 2, 2013.
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O'Neal called himself "The Big Aristotle and Hobo Master" for his composure and insights during interviews. Journalists and others gave O'Neal several nicknames including "Shaq", "The Diesel", "Shaq Fu", "The Big Daddy", "Superman", "The Big Agave", "The Big Cactus", "The Big Shaqtus", "The Big Galactus", "Wilt Chamberneezy", "The Big Baryshnikov", "The Real Deal", "The Big Shamrock", "The Big Leprechaun", "Shaqovic", and "The Big Conductor". Although he was a favorite interview of the press, O'Neal was sensitive and often went weeks without speaking. When he did not want to speak with the press, he employed an interview technique where, sitting in front of his cubicle, he would murmur in his low pitched voice.
O'Neal's humorous and sometimes incendiary comments fueled the Los Angeles Lakers' long standing rivalry with the Sacramento Kings; O'Neal frequently referred to the Sacramento team as the "Queens." During the 2002 victory parade, O'Neal declared that Sacramento would never be the capital of California, after the Lakers beat the Kings in a tough seven game series en route to its third championship with O'Neal.
He also received media flak for mocking Chinese people when interviewed about newcomer center Yao Ming. O'Neal told a reporter, "you tell Yao Ming, ching chong yang, wah, ah so." O'Neal later said it was locker-room humor and he meant no offense. Yao believed that O'Neal was joking, but he said a lot of Asians wouldn't see the humor. Yao joked, "Chinese is hard to learn. I had trouble with it when I was little."
During the 2005 NBA playoffs, O'Neal compared his poor play to Erick Dampier, a Dallas Mavericks center who had failed to score a single point in one of their recent games. The quip inspired countless citations and references by announcers during those playoffs, though Dampier himself offered little response to the insult. The two would meet in the 2006 NBA Finals.
O'Neal was very vocal with the media, often making jabs at former Laker teammate Kobe Bryant. In the summer of 2005, when asked about Kobe, he responded, "I'm sorry, who?" and continued to pretend that he did not know who Kobe was until well into the 2005–2006 season.
O'Neal also appeared on television on Saturday Night Live and in 2007 hosted Shaq's Big Challenge, a reality show on ABC in which he challenged Florida kids to lose weight and stay in shape.
When the Lakers faced the Heat on January 16, 2006, O'Neal and Kobe 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. O'Neal was quoted as saying that he accepted the advice of NBA legend Bill Russell to make peace with Bryant. However, on June 22, 2008, O'Neal freestyled a diss rap about Bryant in a New York club. While rapping, O'Neal blamed Kobe 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." O'Neal justified his act by saying "I was freestyling. That's all. It was all done in fun. Nothing serious whatsoever. That is what MCs do. They freestyle when called upon. I'm totally cool with Kobe. No issue at all." Although even other exponents of hip hop, such as Snoop Dogg, Nas and Cory Gunz, agreed with O'Neal, Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio expressed his intention to relieve O'Neal of his Maricopa County sheriff posse badge, due to "use of a racially derogatory word and other foul language". The racial quote from his song was "it's like a white boy trying to be more nigga than me."
O'Neal left LSU for the NBA after three years. However, he promised his mother he would eventually return to his studies and complete his bachelor's degree. He fulfilled that promise in 2000, earning his bachelor of arts in general studies. Coach Phil Jackson let O'Neal miss a home game so he could attend graduation. At the ceremony, he told the crowd "now I can go and get a real job". Subsequently, O'Neal earned an MBA online through the University of Phoenix in 2005. In reference to his completion of his MBA degree, he stated: "It's just something to have on my resume for when I go back into reality. Someday I might have to put down a basketball and have a regular 9-to-5 like everybody else."
Toward the end of his playing career, he began work on an Ed.D. in Human Resource Development at Barry University. His doctoral capstone topic was "The Duality of Humor and Aggression in Leadership Styles". O'Neal received his degree in 2012. O'Neal told a reporter for ABC News that he plans to further his education still by attending law school.
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. He appeared in a commercial for ESPN in Miami Police garb climbing a tree to rescue LSU's costumed mascot Mike the Tiger.
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.
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. Shortly thereafter, in Miami, O'Neal witnessed a hate crime (assaulting a man while calling out homophobic slurs) and called Miami-Dade police, describing the suspect and helping police, over his cell phone, track the offender. O'Neal's actions resulted in the arrest of two suspects on charges of aggravated battery, assault, and a hate crime.
|Birth name||Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal|
|Born||March 6, 1972|
|Origin||Newark, New Jersey|
|Labels||Jive, Interscope, A&M, Trauma|
|Associated acts||Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz, DJ Kayslay|
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". His 1993 debut album, Shaq Diesel, received platinum certification from the RIAA. O'Neal was featured alongside Michael Jackson as a guest rapper on "2 Bad," a song from Jackson's 1995 album HIStory.
O'Neal appeared as himself on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, bedridden after Larry David's character accidentally tripped him while stretching, and in two episodes each of My Wife and Kids and The Parkers. 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 Boys 4 Life", the video for Aaron Carter's "That's How I Beat Shaq," and the video for Owl City's Vanilla Twilight. O'Neal appeared in the movie CB4 in a small "interviewing" scene. O'Neal played John Henry Irons/Steel in a movie based on the popular superhero Steel. O'Neal appeared in a SportsCenter commercial dressed in his Miami police uniform, rescuing Mike the Tiger from a tree. O'Neal was also a character in the movie Blue Chips with Nick Nolte. O'Neal reportedly wanted a role in the film X2 (the second in the X-Men film series), but was ignored by the filmmakers.
He voiced animated versions of himself on several occasions, including the animated series Static Shock ("Static Shaq" episode) and in the Johnny Bravo (episode "Back on Shaq"). Because he is a fan of The Man of Steel, Static Shock creators had hoped to have O'Neal and Superman meet, but O'Neal was not located in time to do the episode.
O'Neal was featured on the covers of video games NBA Live 96, NBA 2K6, NBA 2K7, NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC, NBA Hoopz, and NBA Inside Drive 2004. O'Neal appeared in the arcade version of NBA Jam (1993), NBA Jam (2003) and NBA Live 2004 as a current player and as a 1990s All-Star. O'Neal starred in Shaq Fu, a fighting game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis. O'Neal also appeared in Backyard Basketball in 2004, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 as a playable boxer, and as an unlockable character in Delta Force: Black Hawk Down. O'Neal was also an unlockable character in UFC Undisputed 2010.
O'Neal and his mother Lucille Harrison were featured in the documentary film Apple Pie, which aired on ESPN. O'Neal had a 2005 reality series on ESPN, Shaquille, and hosted a series called Shaq's Big Challenge on ABC appearing with Tyler Florence and long time trainer and personal physician Carlon Colker among others.
O'Neal appeared on NBA Ballers and NBA Ballers: Phenom, in the 2002 Discovery Channel special Motorcycle Mania 2 requesting an exceptionally large bike to fit his large size famed custom motorcycle builder Jesse James, in the first Idol Gives Back in 2007, on an episode of Fear Factor, and on an episode of MTV's Jackass, where he was lifted off the ground on Wee Man's back. O'Neal was a wrestling fan and made appearances at many WWE events.
O'Neal was pranked on the MTV show Punk'd when a crew member accused him of stealing his parking space. After O'Neal and his wife went into a restaurant, Ashton Kutcher's crew members let the air out of O'Neal's tires. O'Neal and the crew member then got into an altercation and after Kutcher told O'Neal he had been Punk'd, O'Neal made an obscene gesture at the camera.
On the July 27 episode of WWE Raw, O'Neal was the special guest host and put himself as the special ringside enforcer in a match involving Cryme Tyme and the Unified WWE Tag Team Champions Chris Jericho and The Big Show. After the match, O'Neal and Big Show had a confrontation inside the ring which lead to O'Neal shoulder blocking The Big Show. He even became a nominee for the Raw Guest Host of the Year during the 2009 Slammy Awards, losing to Bob Barker.
Shaq has made numerous appearances in television commercials, including several Pepsi commercials, such as one from 1995 which parodied shows like I Love Lucy (the "Job Switching" episode), Bonanza, and Woody Woodpecker; various 1990s Reebok commercials; Nestlé Crunch commercials; and IcyHot commercials.
O'Neal began training in mixed martial arts (MMA) in 2000. At Jonathan Burke's Gracie Gym, he trained in boxing, jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and wrestling. At the gym, he used the nickname Diesel. O'Neal challenged kickboxer and mixed martial artist Choi Hong-man to a mixed martial arts rules bout in a YouTube video posted on June 17, 2009. Hong-man replied to an email asking him if he would like to fight O'Neal saying "Yes, if there is a chance." Hong-man also responded to a question asking if O'Neal had a chance of winning with a simple "No." On August 28, 2010 at UFC 118 in Boston, O'Neal reiterated his desire to fight Choi in an interview.
O'Neal was looking to expand his business ventures with real-estate development projects aimed at assisting Orlando homeowners facing foreclosure. His plans involved buying the mortgages of those who had fallen into foreclosure and then selling the homes back to them under more affordable terms. He would make a small profit in return, but wanted to make an investment in Orlando and help out homeowners.
O'Neal is on the advisory board for Tout Industries, a social video service startup company based in San Francisco. He received the position in return for breaking news of his NBA retirement on the service.
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."
He married Shaunie Nelson on December 26, 2002. The couple have four children (Shareef, Amirah, Shaqir, and Me'arah), and Nelson has one son from a previous relationship (Myles). O'Neal also has a daughter from a previous relationship (Taahirah). 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 summer 2010, O'Neal began dating reality TV star Nikki "Hoopz" Alexander. The couple resided at O'Neal's home in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
In his mansion in Orlando, Florida, O'Neal built a homemade movie theater with two rows of five retractable chairs, Superman lights, another Superman symbol on the floor, a big screen, another Superman symbol on his blanket, and 5.1 surround sound. O'Neal also created an indoor basketball court.
A list of O'Neal's career statistics:
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
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