Shaquille O'Neal

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Shaq

Position: Center
College: Louisiana State
NBA draft: 1992, 1st round
1st overall,
Orlando Magic
Pro career: 13 seasons
Hall of Fame: None
(Active)

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), 340 pounds (154 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", "Superman", and most recently after earning his MBA, "Doctor Shaq". Heralded since he entered the league at 20 years of age, his 13-year career has been one of the most impressive stints of any player in NBA history, prompting many to consider O'Neal one of the greatest centers to ever play the game.

Contents

Childhood

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 feelings. He once pulled a prank at military school by setting the fire alarm off and he had to wait until his step-father picked him up at the police station, and beat him.

His mother, Lucille O'Neal Harrison, would marry U.S. Army sergeant Phillip Harrison (whom Shaq considers his father figure) shortly after Shaquille's birth. Shaq spent some of his childhood in Germany in Wildflecken, Bavaria, where his stepfather 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 only half of his free throws.

Basketball career

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 with a bachelor degree in business. 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. He holds the NCAA record for shots blocked in a game with a whopping 17 blocks against Mississippi State University on December 3, 1990.

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 soldiers. At the time, Shaq was already 7 feet tall, but wieghed only about 223 pounds. Over the next 3 years, Shaq would grow only one inch, but put on 80 pounds of muscle. There is speculation that Shaq's mother fed him Human Growth Hormone while he was growing up. However, Shaquille has denied such claims.

Orlando Magic

O'Neal was drafted 1st. overall in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic. Here he spent his first 4 years of his career, leading the team to the 1995 NBA Finals against the Houston Rockets, before leaving the Magic and signing as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers on July 18, 1996.

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 tenuous 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 Lakers 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, coming just one vote short of becoming the first unanimous MVP in NBA history. Fred Hickman, then of CNN, was the sole voter who did not cast his first place vote for O'Neal. (Hickman went with Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers.

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 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, Caron Butler and a first round draft choice.

Miami Heat

On July 14 2004, Shaq was officially traded to the Miami Heat for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and a first-round draft choice. 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, losing by a narrow margin.

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 probably the 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.

In game two of the 2005-2006 season, Shaq injured his right ankle and was out for 18 games.

Accolades

  • 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 held).
  • Is a three time NBA-Finals MVP (2000-2002)
  • 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 game.
  • O'Neal has a business degree from LSU. At LSU there is a lodge called the "Shaquille O'Neal Lodge," which is part of the Cook Conference Center.
  • 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 2003.

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 career. Trying to defend O'Neal, teams put two, or sometimes even three defenders on him, giving his teammates a lot of uncontested shots.

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. Also, Shaq's free-throw average in the last two minutes of the game is better than his overall average.

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 lb (160 kg). 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. Howeer, this lane violation is occasionally called on O'Neal's free throw attempts. O'Neal's defenders claim that because of his enormous size, officials allow him to take more physical abuse than other players.

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 320 lb (145 kg) frame.

Media personality

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. Although Shaq claims he is not a racist, it is evident to most chinese people that this sort of behaviour defines a racist.

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations by or about:

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. [1]

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 the Season 5 finale of Punk'd, MTV's celebrity prank show.

He has also appeared in many other shows such as Saturday Night Live.

Private life

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.

O'Neal, whose mother is a Baptist and stepfather a Muslim, has not formally announced affiliation with a specific faith; however, he has been linked to Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam.

Police aspirations

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.

In March 2005 he 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.[2]

Upon his trade to Miami, Shaq began training to become a Miami Beach reserve officer; on December 8, 2005, Shaq was sworn in as a reserve officer (he elected a private ceremony so not to distract the other officers from their special moment). Shaq has expressed an interest in working with the special victims detective unit, to stop crimes against children; he stated that he does not simply want to be involved in "photo ops" but wants to "get down and dirty" and make arrests. [3]

Filmography

Discography

  • How To Wipe Your Ass (TBA)
  • Shaq Diesel (1993)
  • Shaq Fu - Da Return (1994)
  • The Best of Shaquille O'Neal (1996)
  • You Can't Stop the Reign (1996)
  • Respect (1998)
  • Presents His Superfriends, Vol. 1 (2001, Unreleased)

Television and video game appearances


Trivia

  • Shaquille O'Neal paid for George Mikan's funeral.
  • Shaquille O'Neal bought apartments, food, toiletries, and others for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
  • Shaquille O'Neal hands out free turkeys to needy children on Thanksgiving every year. O'Neal calls this "Shaqsgiving"
  • Shaquille O'Neal hands out free toys to children in Miami, Newark, New Jersey (where O'Neal has born), and Baton Rogue for Christmas. O'Neal calls this "Shaq-A-Claus".


External links


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