Shaquille O'Neal Biography

Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal is a retired NBA center who played 19 seasons in the league. He played in the NBA from 1992, when the Orlando Magic made him the 1st overall pick in the NBA Draft, to 2011, when he retired as a member of the Boston Celtics. Over the course of his career, O'Neal won the two NBA scoring titles and was a first-team All-NBA selection eight times. O'Neal was a member of four NBA Championship teams, three with the Lakers and one with the Heat, and won three consecutive NBA Finals MVP awards. He was a 15-time All-Star and won 3 All-Star Game MVP awards. In 1996, O'Neal was named to the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, despite having only played four full seasons at that point.

Early Years

Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal, commonly known as Shaq, was born on March 6, 1972 in Newark, New Jersey. Estranged from his biological father, his mother Lucille O'Neal married Phillip Harrison when Shaquille was 3. During O'Neal's youth, the family moved to Army bases in New Jersey, Georgia, West Germany, and then Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas.

As a 6'8" 14 year old, O'Neal was first spotted by LSU coach Dale Brown, who was on a speaking tour in West Germany and mistook O'Neal for an enlisted man. O'Neal graduated from Cole High School in San Antonio, where his team went 31-1 in his junior year. As a senior, O'Neal' averaged over 32 points and 22 rebounds per game, as his team went 36-0 on its way to Texas 3A state championship. He was a McDonald's All-American and first-team Parade All-American in 1989.

College Career

O'Neal attended Louisiana State University from 1989-1992 after also closely considering Louisville, UNLV, North Carolina State, and North Carolina. He led the SEC in rebounds and blocks in all three seasons in Baton Rouge. O'Neal twice won the SEC Player of the Year Award and was also a two-time first-team All-American selection.

As a freshman, he started 28 of 32 games, and blocked an SEC record 115 shots, becoming the first SEC player to block 100 in a season. He would later break his own record in each of the following two seasons. O'Neal averaged 13.9 PPG, which was third on the team behind future NBA players Chris Jackson and Stanley Roberts. After both his sophomore and junior seasons, O'Neal was a consensus first-team All-American and the consensus SEC Player of the Year. As a junior, he led the nation with 14.7 rebounds per game, which led the nation. As a senior, O'Neal led the nation in blocked shots and ranked second in rebounding. In 1992 against BYU, he recorded one of five official triple-doubles in NCAA Tournament history and set a tournament record with 11 blocked shots. He finished his LSU career with school records in total blocked shots and career blocks per game.

O'Neal declared for the NBA Draft after his junior year. He later took correspondence courses to earn his college degree in 2000. He became just the fourth LSU athlete to have his number retired.

NBA Career

Orlando Magic (1992-96)

The Orlando Magic made O'Neal the first overall selection in the 1992 NBA Draft. He won the 1993 Rookie of the Year Award, after averaging 23.4 PPG and 13.9 RPG. The Magic had a +20 win improvement in his first season and narrowly missed the playoffs. The following season, he finished second in the NBA in scoring and led the Magic to the franchise's first postseason appearance.

In 1994-95, O'Neal led the NBA in scoring (29.3 PPG) and finished second in the MVP voting. The Magic finished with 57 wins and the best record in the Eastern Conference. Orlando advanced to the NBA Finals before getting swept by the Rockets. The following season would be O'Neal's last in a Magic uniform. He missed 28 games due to injury, though the Magic still had the best record in the Atlantic Division and lost in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2004)

After four seasons in Orlando, O'Neal took his game to Hollywood, signing with the LA Lakers on July 8, 1996.

There were high expectations for the Lakers after the addition of O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, however the first three seasons didn't go as planned. The Lakers lost 4-1 in the 1997 conference semifinals to the Utah Jazz, 4-0 in the 1998 Conference Finals to the Jazz again, and 4-0 in the 1999 Conference Semifinals to the San Antonio Spurs.

O'Neal's fortunes changed with the addition of Phil Jackson as head coach. In 1999-00, O'Neal was the league MVP (his only MVP to date), averaging a career-high 29.7 PPG (which led the NBA), 13.7 RPG, 3.0 blocks, and 3.8 assists per game. He became the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1976-77 to finish in the top three in points, rebounds, field goal percentage and blocked shots. The Lakers won the NBA title in 2000, their first since 1988. O'Neal was also named Finals MVP after averaging 38.0 points and 16.7 rebounds. O'Neal also shared All-Star Game MVP honors with Tim Duncan and O'Neal became just the 3rd player to be recognized as the MVP of regular season, All-Star game and NBA Finals.

O'Neal led the Lakers to NBA titles in each of the next two seasons. In 2000-01, he averaged 33.0 points, 15.8 rebounds and 4.8 blocks per game in the NBA Finals. In 2001-02, O'Neal averaged 36.3 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game in the NBA Finals. Both times he was named Finals MVP. O'Neal and Jordan (1991-93, 1996-98) are the only players to be named the NBA Finals MVP three consecutive years.

After falling to the Spurs in the 2003 Conference Finals, the Lakers returned to the NBA Finals in 2004. They had homecourt advantage and were considered the favorites to win their fourth title in five years. But after splitting the first two games with Detroit, the Pistons won the final three games, handing coach Phil Jackson his first series loss in the NBA Finals.

O'Neal was an All-Star in seven of his eight seasons in L.A., and was MVP of the All-Star game in 2000 (shared the award with Tim Duncan) and 2004.

Following the 2004 loss in the finals to Detroit, the rift between O'Neal and Kobe Bryant continued to grow, eventually leading to Shaq being dealt to the Miami Heat on July 14, 2004 for Caron Butler, Brian Grant, Lamar Odom and a future first-round pick.

Miami Heat (2004-08)

In his return to Florida, O'Neal and Dwyane Wade helped the Heat improve by 17 games from 42-40 in '03-04 to 59-23 in '04-05. The Heat reached the Eastern Conference finals that first season, losing to the Pistons. O'Neal averaged 22.9 PPG, 10.4 RPG -- the 13th straight season he averaged a double-double. And while that streak came to an end the following season, Wade, O'Neal and the Heat reached the NBA Finals in 2006. After dropping the first two games to the Mavericks, Miami rallied to take the series in six games, winning its first NBA title.

In 2006-07, O'Neal played a career-low 40 games and the Heat went from winning the NBA Finals to 44-38 and a first-round exit in the playoffs. In 2007-08, the Heat were mired in what would be a 15-67 season, and on Feb. 6, 2008, Miami sent O'Neal to the Phoenix Suns for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks.

Phoenix Suns (2008-09)

O'Neal was added to a team that was seeing its window to reach the NBA Finals closing fast. But even with the addition of O'Neal, it wasn't enough to get Phoenix over the top in the deep Western Conference. The Suns lost in the first round of the playoffs in 2008.

In 2008-09, O'Neal enjoyed a career renaissance, revitalized by the Suns training staff. He increased his scoring average from 13.6 to 17.8 PPG and led the NBA by shooting 60.9% from the field. His 75 games played were his most since his MVP season of 1999-00. The Suns won 46 games but failed to qualify for the postseason, marking the first time since his rookie season that O'Neal played for a team that missed the playoffs.

Cleveland Cavaliers (2009-10)

In the summer of 2009, the Cleveland Cavaliers -- who'd attempted to acquire O'Neal at the 2009 trade deadline -- re-entered trade talks with Phoenix. Eventually, the two teams agreed on a deal that sent O'Neal to Cleveland in exchange for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic and cash.

At his introductory press conference in Cleveland, O'Neal said his goal was to "win a ring for the king", referring to LeBron James, the reigning league MVP. O'Neal got off to a slow start for the Cavaliers, and missed six games due to a shoulder injury. After the Cavs lost two point guards to injury, O'Neal took on more of the scoring load, helping the Cavaliers win 11 consecutive games. However, he suffered a thumb injury in February, and missed the remainder of the 2009-10 regular season. He retured to the lineup for the Cavaliers first postseason game, but the Cavaliers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics. O'Neal became an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Boston Celtics (2010-Pres)

In the summer of 2010, O'Neal, who had been making more than $20 million per season, originally sought a contract for the equivalent of the mid-level exception. Unable to find a team with both a need for a center and the willingness to pay that salary, O'Neal ended up signing with the Boston Celtics. The contract was for two years and the league's veteran miminum salary.

O'Neal started the season as the Celtics starter at center, while Kendrick Perkins recovered from an injury suffered in the 2010 NBA Finals. However, injuries eventually forced O'Neal to the sideline, and he failed to be selected as an All-Star for just the third time in his career (and the second consecutive season). O'Neal played just once in the regular season after February 1st, and didn't return until Game 3 of Boston's Eastern Conference Semifinal series against Miami. For the first time in his career, he played a postseason game as a reserve. After playing just eight minutes between Games 3 and 4, O'Neal sat out Game 5 as the Celtics were eliminated by the Heat.

On June 1, 2011, O'Neal announced his retirement via Tout, a social media website.

USA Basketball

O'Neal was under consideration for inclusion on the 1992 U.S. Men's National Team, known as the Dream Team, but the final spot went to college player of the year Christian Laettner. O'Neal got his shot at international play two years later, anchoring the 1994 World Championship Team. O'Neal averaged 18.0 PPG, leading the team in scoring and earning tournament MVP honors.

In 1996, O'Neal was once again named to the U.S. Men's National team, along with five members of the original Dream Team. O'Neal split starting duties with David Robinson and Hakeem Olajuwon, helping Team USA to an 8-0 record and a second consecutive gold medal. The 1996 Olympics marked the last time O'Neal and Anfernee Hardaway were teammates until 2007, when Hardaway signed with the Miami Heat.

Feud with Kobe Bryant

O'Neal and Kobe Bryant played together from 1996 to 2004. O'Neal signed as a free agent with the Lakers in 1996, the same season the Lakers traded for Kobe Bryant, who was coming into the league as a rookie. O'Neal declared that he would be Kobe's big brother, but Bryant didn't want to be considered anyone's "little brother." O'Neal thought Bryant was being unappreciative of O'Neal's leadership and experience.

The two scuffled during a pickup game that took place during the NBA's lockout at the start of the 1998-99 season. At the same time, Bryant was coming into his own as a player, and the two clashed over leadership of the Lakers.

The feud really hit the public eye at the beginning of the 2002 season when O'Neal was out with a toe injury and the Lakers subsequently got off to a bad start. Bryant began to call O'Neal out for his poor work ethic and alluded to the fact that his lack of fitness led to his injury.

In 2003-04, Bryant was arrested for sexual assault and also missed training camp due to a knee injury. O'Neal fired off the first shot saying that the Lakers had their whole team at training camp and seemed to imply that Bryant wasn't that important to the team. O'Neal also said that Bryant should be more of a passer until his knee injury fully healed. In an interview with Jim Gray, Bryant questioned O'Neal's leadership and suggested that O'Neal was fat and out of shape. The two stopped with their public war of words after this and the media coverage died down.

Things took a turn for the worse between the two after the Lakers lost to the Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals. Phil Jackson wasn't offered a new contract and after learning of the news by watching television, O'Neal asked for a trade. After the trade to the Heat, O'Neal also publicly called Kobe a "clown" and "punk". Bryant's police interview recordings were leaked to the public. In these recordings, Bryant suggested that he should have done what O'Neal did with women he allegedly cheated with by paying them up to $1 million in hush money. O'Neal denied the claims and said that he "wasn't the one buying love, Bryant was the one buying love." This was in reference to Bryant buying a multi-million dollar ring for his wife after he revealed his infidelity.

The media considered the end of the feud to be on January 16, 2006 after O'Neal and Bryant shook hands before tip-off. O'Neal said that Bill Russell encouraged him to end the feud. During the offseason in 2007, O'Neal mentioned Bryant in a rap saying, "Kobe couldn't do it without me", referring to the Lakers loss in the 2008 NBA Finals. Another quote was "Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes." O'Neal blamed Bryant for his divorce. In November of 2008, O'Neal told reporters that the entire feud was the fault of Jackson but later retracted the statement and apologized.

After winning the 2010 NBA Finals, Bryant was asked what the title meant to him, and he said it meant he had one more than Shaq, though he laughed after saying it.



During his rookie season with the Magic, O'Neal performed a guest verse with the rap group Fu-Schnickens on the song "What's Up Doc? (Can We Rock?)" They performed the song on The Arsenio Hall Show, O'Neal's first public rap performance.

In 1993, O'Neal released his debut album, "Shaq Diesel". The album, which included the singles "(I Know I Got) Skillz" and the previously-released "What's Up Doc", peaked at No. 25 on the Billboard charts and was eventually certified double-platinum.

A year later, O'Neal released his follow-up album, "Shaq-Fu: Da Return". The album, which reached No. 67 on the charts and was certified platinum, featured the song "Biological Didn't Bother". On the song, O'Neal addressed his non-relationship with his biological father, and declared Phillip Harrison -- his step-father -- his real father.

Shortly after making his debut with the Lakers, O'Neal released his third album, "You Can't Stop the Reign", which peaked at No. 82 on the Billboard charts and was certified gold. The album featured O'Neal's collaboration with The Notorious B.I.G., who was killed four months later.

O'Neal's final rap album, "Respect", was released on Sept. 15, 1998. Though it was O'Neal's highest charting album -- reaching No. 58 on the Billboard 200, it failed to reach any RIAA certification level.


O'Neal made his feature-film debut in 1994's "Blue Chips", where he played a college basketball recruit alongside Nick Nolte and fellow Orlando Magic star Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway.

Two years later, O'Neal played the title role in "Kazaam", where he played a rapping genie. The movie made just $18.9M at the box office, and is one of the worst-reviewed movies on the review compilation site Rotten Tomatoes.

O'Neal's final starring role came in the comic book adaptation "Steel", which was released in 1997. O'Neal, a big "Superman" fan, jumped at the chance to play John Henry Irons/Steel, though the character's connections to "Superman" were removed from the film. The movie was filmed in the summer of 1996, around O'Neal's Olympic obligations. Though it had an estimated $16M budget, the movie made just $1.7M at the box office.

Since 1997, O'Neal has limited his acting work to cameo appearances, most recently in "Scary Movie 4", where he played himself in a scene with Dr. Phil that parodied both the "Saw" movies and O'Neal's poor free throw shooting.

Reality TV

In 2005, O'Neal was the subject of a documentary series on ESPN, "Shaquille", which focused on his first season with the Miami Heat. The series ran during the 2005 NBA Playoffs.

In 2007, O'Neal hosted "Shaq's Big Challenge", a series in which he teamed with a group of experts to help obese children lose weight. The series ran for six episodes on ABC.

O'Neal also hosted and starred in the reality series "Shaq Vs." on ABC. In the show, O'Neal takes on professional athletes from other sports, with O'Neal having an advantage in the competition to even the playing field. O'Neal received special permission from the Cavaliers to participate in the show, which he is also using as an offseason training program. O'Neal reportedly took the idea from Steve Nash, one of his teammates with the Phoenix Suns. Nash eventually hired a lawyer over the dispute, and received an executive producer credit on the show.

Video Games

O'Neal has been the cover athlete for three different NBA series: NBA Live, NBA 2K and NBA Hoopz (the successor to NBA Jam). He also released the fighting game "Shaq Fu" in 1994. The game was released by Electronic Arts for the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo and their corresponding portable systems, and is frequently cited by video game experts as one of the worst games of all-time.

Law Enforcement

O'Neal has frequently professed an interest in law enforcement, both as an offseason activity and a possible post-NBA career. While with the Lakers, O'Neal went through the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Reserve Academy and became a reserve officer.

When he was traded to the Heat, he went through a similar program in Miami Beach, becoming a reserve officer. In 2005, he was also given an honorary U.S. Deputy Marshal title.

When O'Neal was traded to the Suns, he was made an honorary deputy by the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. He was stripped of that title a few months later, after his controversial rap freestyle directed at Kobe Bryant.


O'Neal is the son of Joseph Toney and Lucille O'Neal, though he remains estranged from his biological father. Toney attempted to reconnect with O'Neal when he emerged as a star at LSU, and eventually went on the Ricki Lake Show to ask for a reunion with O'Neal. However, O'Neal released the song "Biological Didn't Bother" and remains estranged with Toney.

O'Neal's first daughter, Taahirah, was born on July 18, 1996 to his ex-girlfriend Arnetta Yardbourgh. O'Neal eventually began a relationship with Va'shaundya "Shaunie" Nelson, who gave birth to his next four children -- Shareef (born Jan. 11, 2000), Amirah (born 2002), Shaquir (born April 19, 2003) and Me'arah (born May 1, 2006). O'Neal and Nelson were married on Dec. 26, 2002.

On Sept. 4, 2007, O'Neal filed for divorce, citing that Shaunie had been "secretive about her assets." The couple reconciled, but in November of 2009, Shaunie filed for separation, citing irreconcilable differences. The divorce was finalized on March 12, 2010.