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O’Neal, Shaquille 1972–

Shaquille ONeal 1972

Professional basketball player, actor, rapper

A Strict Father Helped Set Goals

A Promising College Player

Bigger Than Mickey Mouse

Big Money, Charitable Hand

Selected discography

Selected filmography

Sources

Towering center Shaquille ONeal entered the National Basketball Association in 1992, as the first-round draft choice of the Orlando Magic. ONeal, whose college career at Louisiana State University established his reputation as one of the top half-dozen basketball centers in the world, was virtually an international superstar before he even scored his first professional points. Thanks to multiple product endorsements, movie projects, and rap albums, the engaging ONeal reached an audience far beyond the bounds of professional basketball. Still, it was on the court where he proved himself, if only in order to assure the continuance of his unprecedented fame. Awesome is the only word to describe Shaquille ONeal, the NBAs chairman of the boards, wrote Alan Richman in Gentlemans Quarterly. And its a good bet that hell soon be the most marketable athlete in the world.

Well shy of his twenty-fifth birthday, ONeal was the top draft choice of 1992, Rookie of the Year in 1993, and the starting center on the All-Star Team in both 1993 and 1994. His seven-year contract with the Magic and lucrative deals with the likes of Pepsi, Reebok, and Kenner Toys made him an estimated $70 million in earnings as of 2001. And with his help, the expansion Magic franchise once renowned more for its halftime promotions than for its performanceimproved enough to qualify for the 1994 NBA playoffs.

If sports is indeed moving into the world of cartoons, who better to represent the NBA than Shaq? asked Richman. He is backboard-breaking strong, magnificently photogenic, mellifluously named, and bigger than mankind is supposed to be [7 1]. When he approaches an arena, players who are very large in their own right seem to shrivel, not just in size but in their heart. It is stunning to watch athletes who have throughout their life been the biggest person in the room come up against a man who dwarfs them. Not all of them are able to handle it. Nobody since Wilt Chamberlain has had that effect.

A Strict Father Helped Set Goals

Shaquille Rashaun ONeal was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1972. His first name means little one in Arabic, and his middle name means warrior. Because his parents did not marry, he carries his mothers maiden name as his last name. When he was three years old, his mother married Army sergeant Philip

At a Glance

Born Shaquille Rashaun ONeal on March 6, 1972, in Newark, NJ; son of Philip Harrison (a U.S. Army staff sergeant) and Lucille ONeal. Children: Taheara ONeal, 1996. Education: Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA, 1989-92, Bachelors, General Studies, 2001.

Career: Center for the Louisiana State University basketball team, 1989-92; chosen first in first round of 1992 National Basketball Association draft by Orlando Magic; center for Orlando Magic, 1992-96; center for Los Angeles Lakers, 1996-. Author of Shaq Attack (autobiography), Hyperion, 1993; Shaq and the Beanstalk and Other Very Tall Tales, 1999; Shaq Talks Back, St Martins Press, 2001.

Awards: Winner of the Adolph Rupp Trophy and the John Wooden Award as college basketball player of the year, 1991; starting member of NBA All-Star Team, 1993 and 1994; named NBA Rookie of the Year, 1993; NBA MVP Award, 2000; NBA MVP Award, 2001; Member of NBA League Champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, 2000; Member of NBA League Champions, the Los Angeles Lakers, 2001; NBA Finals MVP, 2000, 2001.

Addresses: Office Los Angeles Lakers, Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA, 90210.

Harrison, whom Shaquille felt was his father. He spent his early years in tough neighborhoods in Newark and nearby Jersey City. Its kind of rough in Newark, ONeal told the New York Daily News. Im glad my father took me out of there. If Id have stayed, I think I would have been a troublesome kid, hanging around, doing the wrong thing.

When Shaquille was 12, his father, Sgt. Philip Harrison, transferred to an Army base in Wildflecken, West Germany. Around that time, the youngster began to grow at a phenomenal pace. At 13, he was 66 and wore size 17 shoes. Wed buy him pants on the [Army] post on Saturday and the next Friday they wouldnt fit, Harrison told Sports Illustrated. Eventually, the family had to order custom-made clothes from the United States. Sometimes, they were too small before they reached Germany.

When he was 13, ONeal first met Dale Brown, head coach of the Louisiana State University (LSU) basketball team. Brown was in Germany conducting coaching clinics while ONeal was trying to improve his game. I asked him if he had any information on how to improve my vertical jump, ONeal told the Rocky Mountain News. As he reached in his briefcase, he asked me, How long have you been in the Army, soldier? I told him I was 13. He said, Wheres your father? My dad was in the sauna. Coach Brown had a nice suit on, but he went right in the sauna, found my dad, shook his hand and said, Its nice to meet you, Mr. Harrison.

Brown then immediately started a sales pitch for LSU. The sergeant, also an imposing 66, listened for a while, then stopped Brown. He said to me, Well, basketball, thats fine. But Im concerned with this young mans education, Brown recalled in the Philadelphia Daily News. Then, he went on to tell me he thought it was about time for blacks to become managers, not laborers; to became generals, not sergeants; head coaches, not assistants. I told him, Sergeant, were going to get along just fine.

Throughout his young life, Shaquille was strongly influenced by his father, a career soldier and strict disciplinarian. Shaquille also had two younger sisters and a younger brother. In junior high in Germany I fought kids all the time, ONeal remembered in Sports Illustrated. I had such a bad temper, I almost got thrown out of school. A few lickings from my dad got me out of that scene. He wore me out with a paddle.

One time, Harrison grabbed Shaquille at half time of a high school basketball game that he was dominating and ordered the youngster to tuck in his uniform shirttail. I always told Shaquille the world has too many followers, Harrison remarked in Sports Illustrated. What he needed to be was a leader. Hed see guys hanging out on the corner, and hed know they were followers. I told him Id whup him rather than have the guys on the corner whup him. I told him theres no half-stepping in this life.

In 1987, when Shaquille was 15, the family moved to San Antonio, Texas, where his father was stationed at Fort Sam Houston. Shaquille attended Cole High School, where he was a B student. He also continued to grow; by the summer after his junior year he stood at 610 and weighed about 250 pounds. Even though Cole High went 32-1 during Shaquilles junior season, he was not considered an outstanding prospect. During his senior year, ONeals father began criticizing him for half-hearted effort. Finally, Sgt. Harrison told his son that if he was not going to try his hardest, he might as well quit. Angered by those words, Shaquille played that same night and scored 52 points in a tournament game in Lubbock, Texas. I was made that night, ONeal was quoted as saying in Newsday. I got home the next week, there were recruiting letters from Georgetown and North Carolina on my desk.

Cole High went 36-0 and won the Texas state title that season. ONeal was sought after by dozens of colleges. In the end, however, LSU coach Browns recruiting effort five years earlier paid off. I chose LSU, first, because Coach Brown was honest, he pointed out in the Houston Post. Second, the players were like family. They were close. Other places, one goes this way, one goes that way. Here, theyre together.

A Promising College Player

The LSU team ONeal joined in 1989 was expected to contend for a national title. It featured another 7-foot freshman, power forward Stanley Roberts, and the high-scoring All-American guard Chris Jackson, who averaged more than 20 shots per game. ONeal found himself positioned as a so-called third wheel. It was a very difficult season for me, ONeal later told the Washington Post. The coachs philosophy is if youre open, shoot it. Chris was so quick with the ball that every time he touched it he was open, so he shot it most of the time. The only time I got the ball really was on rebounds. ONeal still averaged 13.9 points and 12 rebounds and had a Southeastern Conference record of 115 blocked shots. On the flip side, he fouled out of nine games. In the end, LSU had a disappointing season, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

During the summer of 1990 ONeal played in the National Sports Festival, an event featuring the countrys top amateur athletes. Playing for the team representing the South, he dominated against players three and four years older, and, wrote Sports Illustrateds Kirkpatrick, he transformed college opponents into handmaidens. Overall, ONeal averaged 24.5 points and 13.8 rebounds per game during the tournament and was named its most valuable player. Those who had seen him show promise as a freshman now predicted greatness.

When ONeal returned to LSU for his sophomore season, he found that Jackson had left college to join the NBA. Roberts had been ruled academically ineligible and departed to play professionally in Spain. That put the scoring onus on ONeal. Brown showed his confidence by naming the youngster a co-captain, and ONeal, who had only an 16-inch vertical jump during his senior year of high school, did his part by working out and increasing his leap to 42 inches. With his arms outstretched, he can touch a spot two and a half feet above the rim. We found out last year that talent isnt everything, ONeal noted in the Orlando Sentinel going into the 1990-91 season. The difference this year is the number of superstars. Last year, we had too many. This year, we have only one.

That was what was needed. ONeal improved considerably, becoming college basketballs dominant player. In the 1990-91 season, he led the NCAA in rebounding, with 15.2 a game. He was sixth among all college players in scoring (28.5 points), fourth in blocked shots (4.8) and 14th in shooting (63.9 percent). After a January game, in which ONeal scored 34 points and snared 16 rebounds, forlorn Georgia coach Hugh Durham admitted in Sports Illustrated that last year you could play behind him and know he wasnt going to get the ball from those other guys. Now you have to front or side him, and he muscles you out of the lane anyway. They just keep going to the mountain, going to the mountain. Shack may be unguardable.

ONeals style was to use his size to intimidate opponents. He also had surprising speed for a big man and a gritty determination. The Orlando Sentinels Tim Povtak called ONeal a powerful giant with a feathery touch who can control a basketball game in so many ways. He blocks shots like [New York Knicks player] Patrick Ewing but runs the floor like [Utah Jazzs] Karl Malone. He is strong enough to knock down anyone but is graceful enough to dribble the length of the court and athletic enough take an errant alley-oop pass, change his course in midflight and still slam it.

To help ONeal advance, Coach Brown called in two private tutors in 1991Hall of Fame centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. Abdul-Jabbar showed ONeal the secret of the sky hook. Walton taught ONeal offensive moves and shot-blocking. Bill and Kareem did many things wed been trying to teach Shaquille, Brown said in the Rocky Mountain News. But its like raising a child. You can keep telling him something. But when somebody he respects tells him the same thing, it makes an indelible impression.

For his part, Walton was impressed by his student. He reminds me of [Philadelphia 76ers player] Charles Barkley, Walton remarked in the Philadelphia Daily News. Shaquille has that quick, unrestrainable explosion, like Barkley. Its a raw power you dont get from the weight room. It comes from somewhere else, deep in the soul. The guy may have the physical talent and personal discipline to be the best. But I told Shaquille its not the numbers or the stats. Its how he controls the flow of the game.

ONeal was also serious about his schoolwork. A business major, he had the highest grade point average on the team in 1990-91, a 3.0 out of a possible 4.0. LSU athletic director Joe Dean described ONeal in Newsday: Infectious personality, talks all the time, smiles a lot, overachiever academically. Hes one of those kids who walks into class and sits in the front row. During his first three years of college, ONeal claimed that he planned to finish his degree before announcing his draft eligibility. In 1992, however, he changed his mind; he could no longer ignore the pro teams clamor for his services. ONeal was chosen first in the first round of the 1992 NBA draft and signed to a seven-year, $40 million contract with the Orlando Magic.

Bigger Than Mickey Mouse

Fortunately for ONeal, the Reebok shoe company was looking for a nascent superstar to compete with the popular Michael Jordan and his Nike commercials. Reebok chose ONealgiving him a multimillion dollar dealand released commercials starring the young player even before he embarked on his professional career. In fact, ONeal, with his catchy nickname and powerful on-camera blend of sweetness and menace, quickly caught the media spotlight and held it firmly in his grip.

When ONeal made his debut with the Magic in the fall of 1992, he already had a $13 million contract from Pepsi, a five-year $15 million contract with Reebok, and another $20 to $25 million combined from Kenner, Spaulding, and Scoreboard trading cards. By the All-Star break in his rookie year he had begun recording rap songs, both solo and with other hip-hop artists, and at seasons end he starred in a feature film, Blue Chips. By most accounts in Orlando, home to the Magic Kingdom, Shaquille ONeal is bigger than Mickey Mouse, claimed Scott Poulson-Bryant in Vibe. The adulation and superstardom that greet Shaquille ONeal take on another tone, so reverential that one wonders if this 21-year-old will be able to shoulder it and play ball at the same time.

Cynics assured the public that ONeal would crumble under the pressure, that the sheer volume of hype surrounding him would seriously curb his ability to perform on the court. For his part, ONeal expressed nothing but confidence. Ive been a child superstar, he told Vibe. I been getting attention since I was 16, in Texas, getting my name in the paper every day, then in college. So I just take from what I learned in high school and college to this [professional] level. Its really all the same. You play well, they talk well about you.

Shaquille ONeal played well. In his rookie season with the Magic he averaged 23.4 points per game, had team highs in rebounds, blocks, and starts. He was voted onto the 1993 All-Star teamthe first rookie so honored since Michael Jordanand was named the starting center for the East. Most importantly, the Orlando Magics fortunes soared under his leadership. The Magic won only 21 games in 1991-92. The next year, with ONeal on board, they won 41 and narrowly missed making the playoffs. In 1993-94 they won 50 and did make the playoffs, as ONeal finished second in the league in scoring and rebounding and first in field-goal percentage.

All these achievements were not enough to silence the critics, especially when the Magic lost a first-round playoff series to the Indiana Pacers in 1994. The knock on Shaq is that he has no bread-and-butter move, no touch to speak of on his outside shot, and little in the way of resourcefulness, declared Michael Ventre in Sport. Basically, he plows and slams. Not to say that plowing and slamming is a bad thing. But to achieve greatness, hell need more.

Most observers, including ONeal himself, felt that the superstar was still improving and that he would eventually fulfill all the expectations created when he entered the league with such fanfare in 1992. Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West told Sport: You watch [Shaquille] and you see things in his future that kind of open your eyes. He has all the things necessary to really be an impact player for years to come. Sporting News contributor Tim Povtak called ONeal, the leagues most celebrated player and arguably its most dominating presence.

Big Money, Charitable Hand

The Los Angeles franchise had an eye on ONeals promise for good reason. In 1996, ONeal left the Wonderful World of Disney for La La Land. He signed a $120 million deal with the Lakers that he extended for three years in 2000. At a news conference, ONeal admitted that he looked forward to ending [his] career as a Laker. At the beginning of the relationship with the Lakers, ONeal received much flack for switching coasts. His biggest critics even went so far as to question ONeals dedication to the game because of his side ventures in movies, music, writing, and clothing design.

In a 1998 article with Ebony, ONeal said he would not let the objections and criticisms slow him down. People try to limit me, but I would never limit myself. I could never just do one thing, especially if I have the opportunity to do more. And more is exactly what ONeal began to do in Los Angeles. His fifth rap effort, Respect, was released and ONeal participated in a 12-city concert tour promoting the album. ONeal released the album on his own recording label T.W.is.M (The World Is Mine) which also launched a sports apparel line of clothing.

ONeal also extended a charitable hand to the community by donating $1 million to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Americas technology initiatives. His donation served as the foundation of the Internet safety program, Stay Safe Online. M2 Presswire reported ONeal considered building the recreation facility most typically linked with sports celebrities, but he felt that an educational hand was more important. Not every kid is going to make it to the NBA, ONeal explained. Kids who dont understand computers are going to be at an even greater disadvantage in the next century than they are today, he continued.

n addition to the blossoming of his outside ventures, ONeals luck on court was approaching its peak. In 2000 ONeal was finally able to take the wind out of his critics sail by leading L.A. to its first NBA Championship in 12 years. He also won the title and League and Finals MVP. Both The Lakers and ONeal were able to repeat the titles in 2001 in spite of many rumors of conflict with teammate Kobe Bryant.

In the heels of the championships, ONeal had more music in the works, a second book, and another brand of apparel and footwear in the stores, catalogs, and on the net. Shaquille ONeal Presents His Superfriends marked his sixth album release and Shaq Talks Back was his second autobiographical release. The new clothing brand, Dunk, made its premiere in 2000 and was picked up by the Eastbay catalog which has a circulation of five million.

Unlike many entertainers, ONeals celebrity status did not lead him into the tabloid press. He was been able to find a balance between his many passions, his family, his basketball career and his music. In an interview with Vibe, ONeal said that he realizes his worldwide fame is partly due to luck and timing, but also due to skills he developed by working hard. [My Mother] told me I was gonna be the man one day, he said. Here I am. Right now Im just following my dreams and whatever opportunities come my way. I think Im doing a pretty good job.

Selected discography

Shaq Diesel, Jive/Novus, 1993.

Shaq-Fu: Da Return, Jive, 1994.

The Best of Shaquille ONeal, Jive, 1996.

You Cant Stop the Reign, Interscope, 1996.

Respect, A & M, 1998.

Shaquille ONeal Presents His Superfriends, Trauma, 2001.

Selected filmography

CB4, 1993.

Blue Chips, 1994.

Kazaam, 1996.

Good Burger, 1997.

Steel, 1997.

He Got Game, 1998.

Freddy Got Fingered, 2001.

The Brothers, 2001.

Sources

Atlanta Constitution, February 8, 1991; May 30, 1991.

Arizona Republic, March 30, 1991.

Daily News Record, August 30, 1999.

Ebony, December, 1998.

Footwear News, October 23, 2000.

Gentlemans Quarterly, November 1993, pp. 210-15.

Houston Post, November 5, 1989.

Jet, January 8, 2001.

Los Angeles Magazine, June, 2000.

Los Angeles Times, June 9, 1991.

M2 Presswire, June 17, 1999.

National Post, October 14, 2000.

New Orleans Times-Picayune, March 4, 1991.

Newsday, March 3, 1991.

Newsweek, February 8, 1993, p. 73; February 28, 1994, p. 63.

Orlando Sentinel, February 24, 1991.

Philadelphia Daily News, February 12, 1991.

Rocky Mountain News, March 2, 1991.

Rolling Stone, November 25, 1993, p. 55.

Sacramento Bee, January 14, 1991.

Sport, December 1993, pp. 50-2.

Sports Illustrated, January 21, 1991.

TV Guide, April 24, 1993, pp. 16-18.

Vibe, February 1994, pp. 61-4.

Washington Post, February 27, 1991.

Mark Kram, Glen Macnow and Leslie Rochelle

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Kram, Mark; Macnow, Glen; Rochelle, Leslie. "O’Neal, Shaquille 1972–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. 28 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

Kram, Mark; Macnow, Glen; Rochelle, Leslie. "O’Neal, Shaquille 1972–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. (June 28, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2873200054.html

Kram, Mark; Macnow, Glen; Rochelle, Leslie. "O’Neal, Shaquille 1972–." Contemporary Black Biography. 2002. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2873200054.html

O'Neal, Shaquille

Shaquille O'Neal

1972-

American basketball player

Shaquille O'Neal represents professional basketball in the third millennium. At seven-feet-one-inch tall and 335 pounds, he dominates a basketball court with little effort. His combination of size, strength, height, and speed is rare. His hulking presence is distinctive and unmistakable even among his peers, the so-called big men of basketball. A giant of a man, he put a new slant on the celebrity status of living large, when as a 19-year-old draft pick in the National Basketball Association (NBA) he signed the largest rookie contract in the history of professional basketball. Yet without spending a dime of his NBA salary, he embarked on a luxurious lifestyle funded exclusively from endorsement contracts and personal ventures. O'Neal, who moonlights as a recording artist, movie star, and television director, is an Olympic gold medallist and on multiple occasions a most valuable player (MVP) honoree. By his eleventh year in the league he was sporting three NBA championship rings. Off the court he is known to flash an ear-to-ear grin and to emote the unflappable personality of a 12-year-old boy.

Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal was born in Newark, New Jersey, on March 6, 1972. He weighed an unremarkable 7-pounds-13-ounces and was named for an Islamic phrase that means "Little Warrior." His parents, Lucille O'Neal and Joe Toney, never married. Toney, who was a student at Seton Hall University at the time of O'Neal's birth, parted ways with his new family soon afterward. O'Neal then lived with his mother at the residence of his grandmother, Odessa Chamblis, at 100 Oak Street in Jersey City. As the three generations lived together, Chamblis worked as a nurse, and her daughter worked at city hall.

When O'Neal was two years old his mother married Philip Harrison, a sergeant in the U.S. Army. The new Harrison family bonded firmly. With O'Neal as the eldest sibling, Harrison's daughters Ayesha and Lateefa became step-sisters to O'Neal; a younger brother, Jamal was born later to the Harrisons. The family moved often, going from Newark to Bayonne when O'Neal was only five, then on to Eatontown. He was in the fifth grade when they arrived at Ft. Stewart, California. When he was in junior high school the family moved overseas, to Europe. After a brief stay in Wiesbaden, Germany, they spent a few years in Wildflecken.

Can't Stop Growing

As a child O'Neal was not a natural athlete. He was in reality an eternal mischief-maker, hot-tempered, and quick to create altercations. Around the time that he entered junior high school, he began to grow very rapidly, and his parents encouraged him to become involved in sports in order to channel his youthful energy and to keep him out of trouble. While attending a youth basketball clinic in Germany, O'Nealbecause of his heightcaught the eye of Louisiana State University (LSU) Coach Dale Brown. Brown was pleasantly surprised to learn that O'Neal, at more than 6-feet-6-inches tall, was not an adult member of the military (as appeared to be the case). The coach was even more pleased to discover that O'Neal was merely a freshman in high schooland still growing. Brown contacted O'Neal's father and urged him to keep in touch and to consider sending O'Neal to LSU.

As it happened, O'Neal was cut from his ninth grade basketball team because of his clumsiness. He was nonetheless already determined to become a professional basketball player. By the time the Harrison family returned to the United States, O'Neal was already 6-feet-10-inches tall and his size 17 shoes were too small. He was an imposing presence for a high school athlete.

Chronology

1972 Born in Newark, New Jersey, on March 6
1988-89 Leads Cole High School of San Antonio, Texas, to undefeated
season; Texas Class AAA state title
1989 Enrolls at LSU
1989-92 Averages 21.6 points, 13.5 rebounds, and 4.6 blocks per game at LSU
1990 Averages 24.5 points and 13.8 rebounds at National Sports Festival
1990-91 Averages 27.6 points and 14.7 rebounds, shoots .628 from the floor; leads the nation in collegiate rebounding average
1992 Goes to the Orlando Magic as the first pick in the NBA draft on June 24; signs for over $40 million
1992-93 Leads Magic to more than double its previous year win record
1993 Sets career-high totals of 28 rebounds and 15 blocked shots on November 20 against the New Jersey Nets
1993-94 Leads Orlando to its first playoff appearance
1994-95 Leads Orlando to the NBA Finals after going 57-25 to lead the Eastern Conference
1995-96 Leads Orlando to Eastern Conference finals
1996 Signs with the Los Angeles Lakers, for seven years and $120 million on July 18 in the largest free agent move in NBA history
1998 Achieves 10,000 career points on February 10
2000 Scores career-high 61 points versus Los Angeles Clippers on March 6
2000 Leads Lakers to their first NBA title since 1988
2001 Leads Lakers to back-to-back NBA titles
2002 Leads Lakers to a third championship; marries Shaunie Nelson on December 26

Upon the family's return in 1987, Sgt. Harrison was assigned to Ft. Sam Houston, Texas, and the family moved to San Antonio where O'Neal enrolled as a sophomore at Robert G. Cole High School. There he nurtured his dreams of fame and even practiced signing his name, as if doling out autographs for imaginary fans.

At 250 pounds, O'Neal was a formidable center for his high school team. During his junior year the school recorded only one loss for the season as they went 32-1. The following year the team was undefeated, at 36-0. O'Neal averaged 32 points per game, 22 rebounds, and 8 blocked shots for his last two years of high school. By high school graduation in 1989 O'Neal was fully grown. He stood 7-feet-1-inch tall, wore a size 22 shoe, and was recruited intensively by coaches from major colleges. O'Neal opted to play with Coach Brown and the Tigers at LSU in Baton Rouge.

O'Neal, playing at center, was named to the All-American first team during his freshman year at LSU. He averaged more than 12 rebounds per game and set a conference record of 115 blocked shots. Although not the strongest among shooters, his game matured with practice, and he perfected his jump and hook shots. His feats were largely overshadowed that year by the talents of LSU power forward Stanley Roberts. Also a seven-footer, Roberts was faster, more experienced, and more confident.

During the summer of 1990 O'Neal went to the National Sports Festival where he represented the South. At the festival he averaged 24.5 points and 13.8 rebounds per game. Also during the summer break, through intensive conditioning he increased his vertical jump from 16 to 42 inches, which enabled him to reach more than two feet beyond the rim of the basket.

When O'Neal returned to LSU as a sophomore in the fall of 1990, the forward Roberts had left school to play professional ball. He spent the rest of the decade in the NBA playing for the Magic in 1991, and later for the Clippers, Timberwolves, Rockets, and Spurs. O'Neal easily inherited Roberts' reputation as the premiere varsity player at LSU, earning recognition as the biggest of the big men in the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) of that era.

O'Neal doubled his scoring average that season to 27 points per game, and in one contest against Arizona O'Neal scored 29 pointsincluding 16 points in the final six minutes. Contemporary Black Biography cited Sports Illustrated in quoting Georgia coach Hugh Durham's remark at that time, that "'Shack' [ O'Neal] may be unguardable." O'Neal furthermore increased his rebound average to 14.6 per game. He led the NCAA and earned the College Player of the Year distinction from Sports Illustrated, the Associated Press, and United Press International respectively.

NBA Bound

College, for O'Neal, became confining. Always quick to unleash the uninhibited side of his nature, he was evicted from the dormitory at LSU for rowdy behavior shortly before the beginning of his junior year. He took a reprimand on another occasion for possessing an illegally funded cell phone, which (as it turned out) was a phonya toy he carried to impress co-eds. In April, 1992, rather than re-enroll for his senior year, O'Neal announced his availability for the NBA draft.

On June 24, the day of the draft, he was picked first in the first round. Drafted by the Orlando Magic, he signed with that team for $41 million for seven years. His was the largest rookie contract in the history of professional basketball.

Athletes and Music

Some of the tightest bonds are between jocks and hip-hoppers, who have taken up the rock-and-roll mantle of fame-flaunting, drug-touting behavior. The rap game has seduced many professional athletes, the most prominent of whom, Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal, released his fifth CD last September. "When you watch MTV, you can tell all the musicians want to be athletes, and when you watch ESPN, you can tell all the athletes want to rap," O'Neal says. "Remember, a lot of us came from the same place."

Some rappers believe O'Neal is fronting, that he owes his success (including that of his platinum debut CD, Shaq Diesel) to slick production and marketing. In 1995 rapper Coolio told Vibe magazine that O'Neal should "stay on the court; he can't rap." It's a decent bet, however, that none of those critics has expressed that sentiment in person to the 7'1", 315-pound dunkmeister. O'Neal, who entitled his latest CD Respect because he wants to be accepted as a legitimate rapper, says, "I'm just the first person to conquer both worlds. I'm not stupid; I know not to pick [bad] beats."

Source: Silver, Michael, Sports Illustrated, May 24, 1999.

Awards and Accomplishments

Named by the NBA as one of the league's 50 greatest players of all time.
1990 Sets a collegiate conference record of 115 blocked shots
1990-91 Named national Player of the Year in media polls
1991 Wins the Adolph Rupp Trophy and the John Wooden Award as college basketball player of the year
1992 Picked first in the first round overall of the National Basketball Association draft
1993 Named National Basketball Association Rookie of the Year; named to National Basketball Association All-Rookie First Team
1993-98 Named to National Basketball Association All-Star
1996 Won a gold medal with the US Olympic Basketball Team; selected as one of the 50 Greatest Players in National Basketball Association history; included as one of only four athletes among the 100 most powerful people in sports, Sporting News (December 30, 1996)
1999 Named Most Valuable Player for the league
2000 Named most valuable player for the league; named most valuable player for the finals; named most valuable player for the All-Star game; jersey Number 33 retired by Louisiana State University athletic department
2001 Named most valuable player for the league finals
2002 Named most valuable player for the league finals

O'Neal was named player of the week after his first week as a rookie. It was a first-time occurrence in the NBA, and he was named as a starter in the All-Star gameanother rare feat for a rookie. His rebounds, blocks, and starts ranked as team highs for the season, and averaged 23.4 points per game. That year the Magic more than doubled its win record from the previous year. The team went to a 41-41 record, which was 20 wins more than the previous season.

With 50 wins for the 1993-4 season, the Magic went to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. O'Neal already had dunked 709 times in his first two years as a pro. As he made strides in his professional career, he continued taking college courses through an independent studies programs at LSU during the off-seasons. On December 15, 2000, he graduated with a general studies degree and a minor in political science. When O'Neal flew to Baton Rouge for the commencement he was honored by the school with a ceremony to retire his LSU jersey, Number 33.

L. A. Lakers

In 1996 O'Neal signed with the Los Angeles Lakers as a free agent. Again his contract made NBA history. At more than $120 million over seven years it was the largest free agent move in league history. O'Neal that summer won an Olympic gold medal with the U.S. basketball team.

In 2000 he led his new team to its first NBA championship since 1988. O'Neal earned the league MVP trophy and was named MVP of the All-Star game also that year. After leading the NBA in both scoring and field goal percentages for the season, he managed to score 41 points in the decisive championship game, a feat that earned him the MVP trophy for the 2000 NBA finals. With the finals MVP in his pocket, he had succeeded in sweeping all three of the 2000 MVP awards. It was only the third time in history that all three honors fell to the same player. He reaffirmed his contract option through the 2005-06 season that year.

The 2000-01 season brought a repeat of the previous year, with a championship title for the Lakers and the finals MVP trophy for O'Neal. After back-to-back championships, the Lakers in 2002 accomplished a so-called three-peat NBA championship win, with O'Neal three-peating his MVP honor.

Moonlighting Magic

O'Neal earned an estimated $30 million from endorsements alone in his first year as a professional athlete. As he peddled carbonated beverages, athletic shoes, sports equipment, and trading cards, his endorsement income swelled to an estimated $70 million by 2001.

After finalizing his first contract out of college, he relished in spending one million dollars for the first time. He managed easily to unburden himself of the money in the space of a few days. "My first check was for a million dollars, which came to about $600,000 [after taxes] I spent it all in about 15 minutes," O'Neal bemoaned to S. L. Price in Sports Illustrated. O'Neal then explained

that in addition to his many purchases of expensive clothes and an ostentatious Mercedes Benz with custom wheel rims and speakers, he paid some debts for his parents and purchased a Mercedes apiece for each of them. "Then the bank called and said, 'You're $200,000 in the hole,'" O'Neal recalled.

O'Neal branched also into recording, entertainment, and other industries. His personal entrepreneurial ventures include a record label and a clothing line. TWisM, by which he identifies his business projects, is an acronym for O'Neal's personal motto, "The World Is Mine." Overall, he lives a high-stakes lifestyle, which he funds exclusively from his outside venturesaccording to O'Neal, he never spends his NBA earnings.

Shaq-Fu Skillz

When O'Neal initiated his career as a rap musician in 1993, his debut single, "I Know I Got Skillz," was certified gold by December of the year. A debut album, Shaq Diesel, appeared also in 1993 and featured cameos by other popular artists and rap stars. It was certified platinum in 1994 (over 1,000,000 sold). His sophomore album, whimsically titled Shaq-Fu: Da Return, appeared in 1994 and was certified gold by January of 1995. A "best of" album appeared in 1996 and provided advance publicity for an all-new follow-up album, called You Can't Stop the Reign, which was released one week later. On this album O'Neal shared a track with a colleague, the late gangsta' rapper Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace. In March 1997 the friendship came to a tragic end with the murder of Wallace not long after he and O'Neal shared a stage in West Hollywood.

O'Neal, having gained legitimacy for his recording career, returned in 1998 with another album, Respect. In 2001 he released an album for the new millennium, called Shaq O'Neal Presents His Super friends. Because O'Neal takes his identity in part from the ghetto life of his early years and in part from his life as an army brat, the rap albums brought validation to his image as a ghetto-child/rap icon and opened a new dimension to his persona.

"Ow!" a Toe

Excessively flippant and off-the-wall, O'Neal's outrageous personality and diverse interests keep his fans highly entertained. In his 2001 memoir, Shaq Talks Back from St. Martin's Press, he explains in his own words, "Where I Came from and How I Got So Damn Big." With a projected NBA salary of $21 million, O'Neal's player paycheck is the second highest in the league. With a net worth of $171 million in 2002 he was listed at number 22 among Fortune 's "40 richest under 40."

Nicknamed Big Aristotle by some fans, O'Neal's teammates know him at times rather as Big Moody. When a toe injury to his size 22 foot kept him off the court after the 2002 NBA finals through November of the new season, he was unabashedly vocal about how he felt. He minced no words and chided to reporters that his pain was not to be taken lightly. Regardless, O'Neal's personal confidence may well be as large as his feet. Biographer Jack McCallum reported in Sports Illustrated that during the 2002 NBA Western Conference Playoffs, O'Neal sent the opposing coach Rick Adelman of the Sacramento Kings a piece of poetry that read, "Don't cry/Dry your eyes/Here comes Shaq/With those four little guys." O'Neal later bared the bottom of his backside to Kings fans after the Lakers won the conference title.

McCallum defended the impact of O'Neal as a player, although he seems at times to be larger than life. "[His] influence on his team is so profound, because he has worked so hard at becoming a complete player and because he has played through so much pain, he bristles whenever it is suggested that his oversized body is the primary reason for his successa suggestion that is made every night of the season," said the writer.

O'Neal, who published his first autobiography, Shaq Attack, with Hyperion in 1993, and branched into children's literature in the late 1990s with Shaq and the Beanstalk and Other Very Tall Tales. Following his rookie year in Orlando, he earned $1 million for his role as Nick Nolte's co-star in the feature film Blue Chip. O'Neal starred three more feature filmsKazaam in 1996, Steel in 1997, and The Wash in 2001. O'Neal, who directed the cable television series Cousin Skeeter, has expressed an interest in appearing in more action roles. He has appeared many times as himself on network television situation comedies and talk shows. A self-professed "Jersey guy," he anticipates a second career in law enforcement when his athletic prowess fades.

O'Neal is the father of two daughters and one son. He owns mansions Beverly Hills, California, and near Orlando, Florida. On December 26, 2002, he wed Shaunie Nelson, his friend of several years. Together the couple have four children, including one each from previous relationships and two together.

Career Statistics

Yr Team GP PTS FG% 3P% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF
LAL: Los Angeles Lakers; ORL: Orlando Magic.
1992-93 ORL 81 1893 56.2 0.0 59.2 13.9 1.9 0.7 3.5 307 321
1993-94 ORL 81 2377 59.9 0.0 55.4 13.2 2.4 0.9 .9 222 281
1994-95 ORL 79 2315 58.3 0.0 53.3 11.4 2.7 0.9 2.4 204 258
1995-96 ORL 54 1434 57.3 50.0 48.7 11.0 2.9 0.6 2.1 155 193
1996-97 LAL 51 1336 55.7 0.0 48.4 12.5 3.1 0.9 2.9 146 180
1997-98 LAL 60 1699 58.4 0.0 52.7 11.3 2.4 0.7 2.4 175 193
1998-99 LAL 49 1289 57.6 0.0 54.0 10.7 2.3 0.7 1.7 122 155
1999-00 LAL 79 2344 57.4 0.0 52.4 13.6 3.8 0.5 3.0 223 255
2000-01 LAL 74 2125 57.2 0.0 51.3 12.7 3.7 0.6 2.8 218 256
2001-02 LAL 67 1822 57.9 0.0 55.5 10.7 3.0 0.6 2.0 171 199
Total 675 18634 57.7 5.0 53.3 12.3 2.8 0.7 2.6 1943 2291

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: Agent: c/o Leonard Armato, William Morris Agency, 151 South El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2775. Phone: (310) 859-4000. Address: c/o Staples Center, 1111 South Figueroa, St, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Phone: (213) 742-7333. Address: c/o Office, LA Lakers, 3900 W Manchester Blvd, Inglewood, CA, 90305-2200.

SELECTED WRITINGS BY O'NEAL:

(With Jack McCallum) Shaq Attack, New York: Hyperion Press, 1993.

Shaq and the Beanstalk and Other Very Tall Tales, New York: Scholastic, 1999.

Shaq Talks Back, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Dougherty, Terri, Jam Session: Shaquille O'Neal, Edina (MN): ABDO Publishing Co., 2001.

Jackson, Kenneth T. and Arnold Markoe, The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives: Sports Figurers, New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2002.

O'Neal, Shaquille, Shaq Talks Back, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001.

"Shaquille O'Neal," Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 30. Edited by Ashyia Henderson. Gale Group, 2001.

Periodicals

Sports Illustrated, May 24, 1999, p.97; June 17, 2002, p. 32; December 23, 2002, p. 64.

Sketch by G. Cooksey

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O’Neal, Shaquille 1972–

Shaquille ONeal 1972

Professional basketball player

A Strict Father Helped to Set Goals

A Promising College Player

Bigger Than Mickey Mouse

Sources

Towering center Shaquille ONeal entered the National Basketball Association in 1992, as the first-round draft choice of the Orlando Magic. ONeal, whose college career at Louisiana State University established his reputation as one of the top half-dozen basketball centers in the world, was virtually an international superstar before he even scored his first professional points. Thanks to multiple product endorsements, movie projects, and rap albums, the engaging ONeal has reached an audience far beyond the bounds of professional basketball. Still, it is on the court where he must prove himself, if only in order to assure the continuance of his unprecedented fame. Awesome is the only word to describe Shaquille ONeal, the NBAs chairman of the boards, wrote Alan Richman in Gentlemans Quarterly. And its a good bet that hell soon be the most marketable athlete in the world.

Well shy of his 25th birthday, ONeal was the top draft choice of 1992, Rookie of the Year in 1993, and the starting center on the All-Star Team in both 1993 and 1994. His seven-year contract with the Magic and lucrative deals with the likes of Pepsi, Reebok, and Kenner Toys have made him an estimated $70 million in earnings to date. And with his help, the expansion Magic franchiseonce renowned more for its halftime promotions than for its performanceimproved enough to qualify for the 1994 NBA playoffs.

If sports is indeed moving into the world of cartoons, who better to represent the NBA than Shaq? asked Richman. He is backboard-breaking strong, magnificently photogenic, mellifluously named, and bigger than mankind is supposed to be [7T]. When he approaches an arena, players who are very large in their own right seem to shrivel, not just in size but in their heart. It is stunning to watch athletes who have throughout their life been the biggest person in the room come up against a man who dwarfs them. Not all of them are able to handle it. Nobody since Wilt Chamberlain has had that effect.

A Strict Father Helped to Set Goals

Shaquille Rashaun ONeal was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1972. His first name means little one in Arabic, and his middle name means warrior. Because his parents did not marry until he was three years old, he carries his mothers maiden name as his last name. The son of an Army sergeant, Shaquilles early years were largely spent in tough neighborhoods in Newark and nearby

At a Glance

Born Shaquille Rashaun ONeal, March 6, 1972, in Newark, NJ; son of Philip Harrison (a U.S. Army staff sergeant) and Lucille ONeal. Education: Attended Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA, 1989-92.

Center for the Louisiana State University basketball team, 1989-92; chosen first in first round of 1992 National Basketball Association draft by Orlando Magic; center for Orlando Magic, 1992. Author of Shag Attack (autobiography), Hyperion, 1993.

Selected awards: Winner of the Adolph Rupp Trophy and the John Wooden Award as college basketball player of the year, 1991; starting member of NBA Ail-Star Team, 1993 and 1994; named NBA Rookie of the Year, 1993.

Addresses: Office Orlando Magic, Orlando Arena, One Magic PL, Orlando, FL 32801.

Jersey City. Its kind of rough in Newark, ONeal told the New York Daily News. Im glad my father took me out of there. If Id have stayed, I think I would have been a troublesome kid, hanging around, doing the wrong thing.

When Shaquille was 12, his father, Sgt. Philip Harrison, transferred to an Army base in Wildflecken, West Germany. Around that time, the youngster began to grow at a phenomenal pace. At 13, he was 66 and wore size 17 shoes. Wed buy him pants on the [Army] post on Saturday and the next Friday they wouldnt fit, Harrison told Sports Illustrated. Eventually, the family had to order custom-made clothes from the United States. Sometimes, they were too small before they reached Germany.

When he was 13, ONeal first met Dale Brown, head coach of the Louisiana State University (LSU) basketball team. Brown was in Germany conducting coaching clinics while ONeal was trying to improve his game. I asked him if he had any information on how to improve my vertical jump, ONeal told the Rocky Mountain News. As he reached in his briefcase, he asked me, How long have you been in the Army, soldier? I told him I was 13. He said, Wheres your father? My dad was in the sauna. Coach Brown had a nice suit on, but he went right in the sauna, found my dad, shook his hand and said, Its nice to meet you, Mr. Harrison.

Brown then immediately started a sales pitch for LSU. The sergeant, also an imposing 66, listened for a while, then stopped Brown. He said to me, Well, basketball, thats fine. But Im concerned with this young mans education, Brown recalled in the Philadelphia Daily News. Then, he went on to tell me he thought it was about time for blacks to become managers, not laborers; to became generals, not sergeants; head coaches, not assistants. I told him, Sergeant, were going to get along just fine.

Throughout his young life, Shaquille has been strongly influenced by his father, a career soldier and strict disciplinarian. Shaquille also has two younger sisters and a younger brother. In junior high in Germany I fought kids all the time, ONeal remembered in Sports Illustrated. I had such a bad temper, I almost got thrown out of school. A few lickings from my dad got me out of that scene. He wore me out with a paddle.

One time, Harrison grabbed Shaquille at halftime of a high school basketball game that he was dominating and ordered the youngster to tuck in his uniform shirttail. I always told Shaquille the world has too many followers, Harrison remarked in Sports Illustrated. What he needed to be was a leader. Hed see guys hanging out on the corner, and hed know they were followers. I told him Id whup him rather than have the guys on the corner whup him. I told him theres no half-stepping in this life.

In 1987, when Shaquille was 15, the family moved to San Antonio, Texas, where his father was stationed at Fort Sam Houston. Shaquille attended Cole High School, where he was a B student. He also continued to grow; by the summer after his junior year he stood at 610 and weighed about 250 pounds. Even though Cole High went 32-1 during Shaquilles junior season, he was not considered an outstanding prospect. During his senior year, ONeals father began criticizing him for half-hearted effort. Finally, Sgt. Harrison told his son that if he wasnt going to try his hardest, he might as well quit. Angered by those words, Shaquille played that same night and scored 52 points in a tournament game in Lubbock, Texas. I was made that night, ONeal was quoted as saying in Newsday. I got home the next week, there were recruiting letters from Georgetown and North Carolina on my desk.

Cole High went 36-0 and won the Texas state title that season. ONeal was sought after by dozens of colleges. In the end, however, LSU coach Browns recruiting effort five years earlier paid off. I chose LSU, first, because Coach Brown was honest, he pointed out in the Houston Post. Second, the players were like family. They were close. Other places, one goes this way, one goes that way. Here, theyre together.

A Promising College Player

The LSU team ONeal joined in 1989, was expected to contend for a national title. It featured another 7-foot freshman, power forward Stanley Roberts, and the high-scoring All-American guard Chris Jackson, who averaged more than 20 shots per game. ONeal found himself positioned as a so-called third wheel. It was a very difficult season for me, ONeal later told the Washington Post. The coachs philosophy is if youre open, shoot it. Chris was so quick with the ball that every time he touched it he was open, so he shot it most of the time. The only time I got the ball really was on rebounds. ONeal still averaged 13.9 points and 12 rebounds and had a Southeastern Conference record of 115 blocked shots. On the flip side, he fouled out of nine games. In the end, LSU had a disappointing season, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

During the summer of 1990 ONeal played in the National Sports Festival, an event featuring the countrys top ama-teur athletes. Playing for the team representing the South, he dominated against players three and four years older, and, wrote Sports Illustrateds Kirkpatrick, he transformed college opponents into handmaidens. Overall, ONeal averaged 24.5 points and 13.8 rebounds per game during the tournament and was named its most valuable player. Those who had seen him show promise as a freshman now predicted greatness.

When ONeal returned to LSU for his sophomore season, he found that Jackson had left college to join the NBA. Roberts had been ruled academically ineligible and departed to play professionally in Spain. That put the scoring onus on ONeal. Brown showed his confidence by naming the youngster a co-captain, and ONeal, who had only an 16-inch vertical jump during his senior year of high school, did his part by working out and increasing his leap to 42 inches. With his arms outstretched, he can touch a spot two and a half feet above the rim. We found out last year that talent isnt everything, ONeal noted in the Orlando Sentinel going into the 1990-91 season. The difference this year is the number of superstars. Last year, we had too many. This year, we have only one.

That was all that was needed. ONeal improved considerably, becoming college basketballs dominant player. In the 1990-91 season, he led the NCAA in rebounding, with 15.2 a game. He was sixth among all college players in scoring (28.5 points), fourth in blocked shots (4.8) and 14th in shooting (63.9 percent). After a January game, in which ONeal scored 34 points and snared 16 rebounds, forlorn Georgia coach Hugh Durham admitted in Sports Illustrated that last year you could play behind him and know he wasnt going to get the ball from those other guys. Now you have to front or side him, and he muscles you out of the lane anyway. They just keep going to the mountain, going to the mountain. Shack may be unguardable.

ONeals style is to use his size to intimidate opponents. He also has surprising speed for a big man and a gritty determination. The Orlando Sentinels Tim Povtak called ONeal a powerful giant with a feathery touch who can control a basketball game in so many ways. He blocks shots like [New York Knicks player] Patrick Ewing but runs the floor like [Utah Jazzs] Karl Malone. He is strong enough to knock down anyone but is graceful enough to dribble the length of the court and athletic enough take an errant alley-oop pass, change his course in midflight and still slam it.

To help ONeal advance, Coach Brown called in two private tutors in 1991Hall of Fame centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. Abdul-Jabbar showed ONeal the secret of the sky hook. Walton taught ONeal offensive moves and shot-blocking. Bill and Kareem did many things wed been trying to teach Shaquille, Coach Brown said in the Rocky Mountain News. But its like raising a child. You can keep telling him something. But when somebody he respects tells him the same thing, it makes an indelible impression.

For his part, Walton was impressed by his student. He reminds me of [Philadelphia 76ers player] Charles Barkley, Walton remarked in the Philadelphia Daily News. Shaquille has that quick, unrestrainable explosion, like Barkley. Its a raw power you dont get from the weight room. It comes from somewhere else, deep in the soul. The guy may have the physical talent and personal discipline to be the best. But I told Shaquille its not the numbers or the stats. Its how he controls the flow of the game.

ONeal is also serious about his schoolwork. A business major, he had the highest grade point average on the team in 1990-91, a 3.0 out of a possible 4.0. LSU athletic director Joe Dean described ONeal in Newsday: Infectious personality, talks all the time, smiles a lot, overachiever academically. Hes one of those kids who walks into class and sits in the front row. During his first three years of college, ONeal claimed that he planned to finish his degree before announcing his draft eligibility. In 1982, however, he changed his mindhe could no longer ignore the pro teams clamor for his services. ONeal was chosen first in the first round of the 1992 NBA draft and signed to a seven-year, $40 million contract with the Orlando Magic.

Bigger Than Mickey Mouse

Fortunately for ONeal, the Reebok shoe company was looking for a nascent superstar to compete with the popular Michael Jordan and his Nike commercials. Reebok chose ONealgiving him a multimillion dollar dealand released commercials starring the young player even before he embarked on his professional career. In fact, ONeal, with his catchy nickname and powerful on-camera blend of sweetness and menace, quickly caught the media spotlight and held it firmly in his grip.

When ONeal made his debut with the Magic in the fall of 1992, he already had a $13 million contract from Pepsi, a $12 to $20 million contract with Reebok, and another $20 to $25 million combined from Kenner, Spaulding, and Scoreboard trading cards. By the All-Star break in his rookie year he had begun recording rap songs, both solo and with other hip-hop artists, and at seasons end he starred in a feature film, Blue Chips. By most accounts in Orlando, home to the [Disney World theme parks] Magic Kingdom, Shaquille ONeal is bigger than Mickey Mouse, claimed Scott Poulson-Bryant in Vibe. The adulation and superstardom that greet Shaquille ONeal take on another tone, so reverential that one wonders if this 21-year-old will be able to shoulder it and play ball at the same time.

Cynics assured the public that ONeal would crumble under the pressure, that the sheer volume of hype surrounding him would seriously curb his ability to perform on the court. For his part, ONeal expressed nothing but confidence. Ive been a child superstar, he told Vibe. Ive been getting attention since I was 16, in Texas, getting my name in the paper every day, then in college. So I just take from what I learned in high school and college to this [professional] level. Its really all the same. You play well, they talk well about you.

Shaquille ONeal played well. In his rookie season with the Magic he averaged 23.4 points per game, had team highs in rebounds, blocks, and starts. He was voted onto the 1993 All-Star teamthe first rookie so honored since Michael Jordanand was named the starting center for the East. Most importantly, the Orlando Magics fortunes soared under his leadership. The Magic won only 21 games in 1991-92. The next year, with ONeal on board, they won 41 and narrowly missed making the playoffs. In 1993-94 they won 50 and did make the playoffs, as ONeal finished second in the league in scoring and rebounding and first in field-goal percentage.

All these achievements were not enough to silence the critics, especially when the Magic lost a first-round playoff series to the Indiana Pacers in 1994. The knock on Shaq is that he has no bread-and-butter move, no touch to speak of on his outside shot, and little in the way of resourcefulness, declared Michael Ventre in Sport. Basically, he plows and slams. Not to say that plowing and slamming is a bad thing. But to achieve greatness, hell need more.

Most observers, including ONeal himself, feel that the superstar is still improving and that he will eventually fulfill all the expectations created when he entered the league with such fanfare in 1992. Los Angeles Lakers general manager Jerry West told Sport: You watch [Shaquille], and you see things in his future that kind of open your eyes. He has all the things necessary to really be an impact player for years to come. Sporting News contributor Tim Povtak calls ONeal the leagues most celebrated player and arguably its most dominating presence.

ONeals celebrity status has not led him into the pages of the tabloid press. He says little about his relationships with women beyond the claim that he is not interested in casual liaisons with those who might be attracted to his wealth or fame. What ONeal is passionate about is music, particularly rap. He has released a solo rap album and has contributed tracks to other albums, and he has an extensive collection of rap music at his home in Orlando.

As for his movie workmost notably in the well-received 1994 film Blue Chips, ONeal told Vibe: Acting is nothing but delivery and facial expressions, like if youre supposed to be mad, you gotta act mad. Its not that complicated. ONeal added that he realizes his worldwide fame is partly due to luck and timing and partly due to skills he has developed by working hard. [My mother] told me I was gonna be the man one day, he said. Here I am. Right now Im just following my dreams and whatever opportunities come my way. I think Im doing a pretty good job.

Sources

Atlanta Constitution, February 8, 1991; May 30, 1991.

Arizona Republic, March 30, 1991.

Gentlemans Quarterly, November 1993, pp. 210-15.

Houston Post, November 5, 1989.

Los Angeles Times, June 9, 1991.

New Orleans Times-Picayune, March 4, 1991.

Newsday, March 3, 1991.

Newsweek, February 8, 1993, p. 73; February 28, 1994, p. 63.

Orlando Sentinel, February 24, 1991.

Philadelphia Daily News, February 12, 1991.

Rocky Mountain News, March 2, 1991.

Rolling Stone, November 25, 1993, p. 55.

Sacramento Bee, January 14, 1991.

Sport, December 1993, pp. 50-2.

Sports Illustrated, January 21, 1991.

TV Guide, April 24, 1993, pp. 16-18.

Vibe, February 1994, pp. 61-4.

Washington Post, February 27, 1991.

Mark Kram and Glen Macnow

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Kram, Mark; Macnow, Glen. "O’Neal, Shaquille 1972–." Contemporary Black Biography. 1995. Retrieved June 28, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2871000058.html

O'Neal, Shaquille

Shaquille O'Neal (Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal) (shəkēl´ rəshôn´ ōnēl´), 1972–, American basketball player, b. Newark, N.J. Joining the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1992, he was the 1993 NBA rookie of the year. Huge and intimidating on the court but personable off, "Shaq" quickly demonstrated charisma and immense commercial appeal. In 1996 he moved to the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom he won the NBA's most valuable player award in 2000. That year the Lakers won the first of three consecutive championships, and O'Neal was named NBA Finals MVP each year. He was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004, and helped lead the team to an NBA championship two years later. In 2008 he was traded to the Phoenix Suns and the following year to the Cleveland Cavaliers; he joined the Boston Celtics in 2010, and retired in 2011. O'Neal scored 28,596 points during his career, the fifth highest in NBA history.

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