Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal (born March 6, 1972 in Newark, New Jersey),
or Shaq as he is popularly known, is known as one of the National
Basketball Association's most dominant basketball players. O'Neal
first played for the Orlando Magic, later signed with the Los Angeles
Lakers, and now plays for the Miami Heat. At 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m),
325 pounds (145 kg) and U.S. shoe size 22, he is famous for his physical
stature. He has several nicknames, most of which he conferred upon
himself, such as "the Diesel", "the Big Aristotle",
O'Neal was named "Shaquille Rashaun" ("Little Warrior" in
Arabic) by his biological father, Joseph Toney. However, he is not close to his
biological father; one of his songs, "Biological Didn't Bother", explains
His mother, Lucille O'Neal Harrison, would marry U.S. Army sergeant Phillip
Harrison shortly after Shaquille's birth. Shaq spent some of his childhood
in Germany in Wildflecken, Bavaria, where his step-father Harrison was
stationed with the U.S. Army. It was there that he learned to play basketball.
O'Neal fractured both of his wrists while climbing between two trees,
trying to imitate Spider-Man, his comic strip favorite, and sometimes explains
that this is why he makes less than half of his free throws.
Louisiana State University
He first gained national attention as a star at Robert G. Cole Junior-Senior
High School in San Antonio, Texas. He became High School Player of the Year
during his playing years there. As a young man, he attended Louisiana State
University to study and graduate as a bachelor in law. While on LSU's basketball
team, he was a two-time first team All-American, two-time Southeastern Conference
player of the year, and the national player of the year in 1991.
Dale Brown, LSU's coach at that time, states that he first met Shaq while
he was visiting Germany, and mistook the then-13 year old for one of the
He was the first player selected overall in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Orlando
Magic and helped the team to a commendable 41 wins that year, missing the playoffs
by one game. He further raised his fame that year with two infamous dunks which
broke the supports holding the basket and backboard, both on national television:
the first coming against the Phoenix Suns, the second against the New Jersey
In the 1993-94 season, Shaq helped the Magic to their first playoff berth
In 1994-1995, O'Neal and Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway helped their team reach
the NBA Finals, but were swept in four games by the Houston Rockets.
Los Angeles Lakers
After the 1995-1996 season, O'Neal left Orlando to join the Los Angeles Lakers
for an unprecedented seven year $120 million contract. He and teammate Kobe
Bryant created one of the most effective guard-center combinations in NBA history,
although their relationship was a tenous one and the two feuded with each other
frequently in public and private.
Regardless, the two (coached by Phil Jackson) enjoyed tremendous success
on the court, as O'Neal and Bryant led the Los Angeles to three consecutive
NBA titles (2000, 2001, 2002). Shaq was named MVP of the NBA Finals all
three times and has the highest scoring average for a center in Finals
history. He was also voted the 1999-2000 regular season Most Valuable Player,
almost becoming the first unanimous MVP in NBA history.
At the beginning of the 2003-04 season, O'Neal announced he sought an
extension to his contract. Laker management, however, was hesitant to meet
his demands. The Lakers offered Shaquille O'Neal a contract in February
2004 (according to the book: Madmen's Ball by Mark Heisler) to remain the
highest-paid player in the league but O'Neal refused.
After the Lakers were defeated by the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals,
O'Neal was angered by comments made by Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak
regarding his future with the club, and promptly demanded a trade. O'Neal
was traded to the Miami Heat for Lamar Odom, Brian Grant, and Caron Butler.
On July 14, 2004, Shaq was officially traded to the Miami Heat for Caron Butler,
Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and a first-round draft pick. The trade was immediately
considered one of the most important in sports history, with analysts uncertain
that one man could replace so many of Miami's key players. However, Shaq's
new-look Heat surpassed all expectations, easily claiming the best record in
the Eastern Conference. Those he was traded for failed to even lead the Lakers
to the playoffs. Many pundits compared the Lakers trade of Shaq to the Boston
Red Sox trade of Babe Ruth, referring to their dismal following season as "The
Curse of the Shaq-bino". He narrowly lost the 2004-2005 MVP award to Phoenix
Suns guard Steve Nash in one of the closest votes in history. Despite being
hobbled by a deep thigh bruise, Shaq lead the Heat to the Eastern Conference
Finals and a Game 7 against the defending champion Detroit Pistons and lost
In August 2005, O'Neal signed an 5-year-extension with the Heat for 100
million dollars. Whereas critics denounced this extension as overpaying
an aging player, supporters laud the Heat staff for landing the probably
most dominant player in the NBA for "only" $20 million a year,
in a period where mediocre or constantly injured players like Keith Van
Horn, Jalen Rose, Derek Anderson, Allan Houston or Brian Grant earn almost
the same amount.
By signing this contract, O'Neal contradicted his earlier comment of him
never taking a pay cut in the interests of the team. He would have received
$30 million this season but took a pay cut of $10 million a year to help
the HEAT make trades for better players.
-O'Neal has been selected to the All-Star Game every year since his rookie
season in 1993 (except for the 1999 lockout season, in which the game was not
-He has received All-NBA-Defensive honors in 2000, 2001 and 2003, though he
has never been a first-team selection.
-O'Neal was a key member of the 1994 World Championship and 1996 Olympic basketball
team, which won gold.
-He has been selected by the NBA as one of the "50 Greatest Basketballers" in
1996. He was the youngest member of this list.
-In 2005, O'Neal became the first player in NBA history to average over 20
points and 10 rebounds per game for 13 seasons.
-O'Neal has earned All-NBA-Team honors in 11 of his 13 seasons.
-He also was awarded the MVP in the 1999-00 season and in the 2003-04 All-Star
-O'Neal has a business law degree from LSU. At LSU there is a lodge called
the "Shaquille O'Neal Lodge," which is part of the Cook Conference
-On June 25, 2005 O'Neal earned his MBA from the University of Phoenix.
-O'Neal was ranked #9 in SLAM Magazine's Top 75 NBA Players of all time in
Strengths and weaknesses
O'Neal is a physically exceptional player. His 7'1"/320-lb frame gives
him enormous power, and for a man of that size, he is quick and very explosive.
His "drop step," in which he posts up a defender, turns around and
powers past him for a slam dunk, has proven virtually unstoppable. In addition,
he is a talented and stylish passer, and an effective defender. His dominating
physical presence inside the paint has caused dramatic changes in many teams'
offensive and defensive strategies that can be seen over the course of his
On the other hand, O'Neal is one of the worst free-throw shooters in the
NBA. His lifetime average is an abysmally low 53.1%. In hope of exploiting
Shaq's poor foul shooting, opponents often commit intentional fouls on
Shaq, a tactic known as "Hack-a-Shaq"; this technique was invented
and coined by former Dallas Mavericks coach Don Nelson. In perspective,
abysmal free-throw shooting is common among NBA big-men, and is a trait
shared by other greats such as Wilt Chamberlain
His other weakness is his weight. O'Neal usually shows up to training
camp overweight. During his last few years with the Lakers he weighed around
350-lbs. When O'Neal was overweight he was prone to many injuries, especially
on his big right toe.
Many feel that Shaq's star power in the NBA causes referees to turn a
blind eye to some of his minor rule infractions. Many claim that his awkward
shooting stance and general forward motion cause him to violate Rule 10,
Section I-d, a rarely-enforced rule stating that the shooter cannot cross
the plane of the free throw line until the ball has touched the basket
ring or backboard. On the other hand, O'Neal's defenders claim that because
of his enormous size, officials allow him to take more physical abuse than
For several years, O'Neal has suffered from arthritis in his right big
toe, due to more than a decade of running, jumping and dunking with his
Shaq is generally liked by the media for his playful tone in interviews and
generally eloquent manner in comparison to other athletes. He has been called "the
Big Aristotle", a name that was self-given, for his composure and insights
during these interviews. Shaq's humorous and sometimes incendiary comments
fueled the LA Lakers long standing rivalry with the Sacramento Kings; Shaq
frequently referred to the Sacramento team as the "Queens". Shaq
also received some media flak for mocking the Chinese language when interviewed
about newcomer center Yao Ming, but he was able to downplay the media attention
to the event.
During the 2005 NBA playoffs, Shaq lamented of his poor play due to injury
as being comparable to Erick Dampier, a Dallas Mavericks center that had
failed to score a single point in one of their recent games. The quip was
not responded to malevolently, but inspired countless citations and references
by announcers during those playoffs.
On May 24, 2005, when Brian Hill was re-announced as head coach of his
former team, the Orlando Magic, Shaq was quoted as saying, "It's good
that he's back. When I buy the team [Magic] in three years, he'll be working
for me." Whether or not this will raise speculation of Shaq's life
after playing basketball remains to be seen. 
He is very vocal with the media, and often jabs at his former Laker teammate,
Kobe Bryant. In the summer of 2005, when asked about Kobe, he responded, "I'm
sorry, who?" and went on about not being familiar with that name.
Shaq was once a spokesperson for Radio Shack. In one of its commercials,
he snapped his fingers and changed the spelling to "Radio Shaq".
Shaq appeared on season 5 finale of Punk'd after being tricked by Ashton
Kutcher while chasing a man who tried to destroy his SUV.
O'Neal married his long-time girlfriend, Shaunie Nelson, on December 26, 2002;
they have 3 children: Shareef Rashaun, Amirah Sanaa, and Shaquir Rashaun. He
also has a daughter, Taahirah, by ex-girlfriend Arnetta Yardbourgh.
Off court, Shaq has maintained a high level of interest in the workings of
the police department, and has become personally involved in law enforcement.
O'Neal went through the police academy in Los Angeles, and became a reserve
officer with the L.A. Port Police. Since moving to Miami, he has begun training
to become a reserve officer for the Miami Beach police, and will soon be certified
to make arrests and carry a .40-caliber pistol. In March 2005 he was was given
an honorary U.S. Deputy Marshal title and named the spokesman for the Safe
Surfin' foundation; he will serve an honorary role on the task force of the
same name, which tracks down sexual predators who target children on the Internet.
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