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Shaq joins University of Phoenix grads

INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- Shaquille O'Neal returned to the Forum
on Saturday, not for an NBA game, but to pick up his MBA.

The man who once called himself the Big Aristotle was the
tallest and most famous of the 2,200 University of Phoenix
graduates at the arena. But O'Neal said he was simply getting ready
for the real world.
"It's just something to have on my resume [for] when I go back
into reality," the 7-foot-1 Miami Heat center said before picking
up his master's in business administration. "Someday I might have
to put down a basketball and have a regular 9-to-5 like everybody
else."
O'Neal played with the Los Angeles Lakers at the Forum until the
team moved to the downtown Staples Center in 1999. Championship
banners and the gold-and-purple jerseys of retired stars still hang
on the walls.
"Sports for me has always been, you know, fairy tale life. And
this right here is real life," he said of his degree. "This right
here means more."
O'Neal left Louisiana State University as a junior in 1992 to
turn pro, and made good on a promise to his mother to graduate,
earning a bachelor's in business from LSU in 2000.
For the University of Phoenix, a national for-profit college
that caters to working adults, the Big Graduate did online work,
and, before he was traded, attended classes several days a week at
a West Los Angeles campus. Fellow students weren't intimidated, he
joked.
"They would all say, 'You're not like we thought you would be.
You're not as smart as we thought that you would be,"' O'Neal
said.
O'Neal, who left the Lakers following a well-publicized feud
with Kobe Bryant, said his job experience came in handy in the
classroom.
"I used my basketball experience working with different egos,
to get everybody to work together," he said.
But O'Neal likes to be in charge. He previously took courses at
a police academy and said he'll aim for another degree, in criminal
justice. He hopes to eventually work as a sheriff or police chief
and said he met some people in those top positions with advanced
degrees.
"I wanted to have the same type of knowledge that they had,"
he said.
O'Neal worked with classmates to design mock sneaker and cell
phone companies, though he already had more than a little
experience in the business world from product endorsements, his own
clothing line and forays into movies and music.
The degree, he said, "solidifies that I'm a businessman."
The Big Executive is ready to take on Bill Gates and Donald
Trump.
"I could always go and have a conversation with Mr. Gates or
Mr. Trump. But now that I have this," he said, "I can really have
a conversation with them on the same level that they have their
conversations."