Who isDeion Luwynn Sanders?, The sports world knows Deion Sanders by his nickname “Prime Time” and “Neon Deion”. Sanders is a former National Football League cornerback and Major League Baseball outfielder who currently works as an NFL Network analyst. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on August 6, 2011.
Sanders is considered one of the most versatile athletes in sporting
history because he played two sports at multiple positions. In the NFL,
he played primarily at cornerback, but also occasionally as a running
back, wide receiver, kick returner, and punt returner. He played for the
Atlanta Falcons, the San Francisco 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys, the Washington Redskins, and the Baltimore Ravens, winning the Super Bowl with both the 49ers and the Cowboys. In baseball, he played for the New York Yankees, the Atlanta Braves, the Cincinnati Reds, and the San Francisco Giants. He attended Florida State University, where he excelled at both football and baseball.
High school years
Sanders was born August 9, 1967 in Fort Myers, Florida. He attended North Fort Myers High School in North Fort Myers, Florida, and was a letterman and credited All-State in football, basketball, and baseball. He was an All-State honoree in all three sports. In 1985, Sanders was named to the Florida High School Association All-Century Team which selected the Top 33 players in the 100 year history of high school football in the state of Florida.
Sanders was a star in three sports for Florida State: football, baseball, and track. Beginning his freshman year, he started in the Seminoles’ secondary, played outfield for the baseball team that finished fifth in the nation, and helped lead the track and field team to a conference championship.
At Florida State University, under head coach Bobby Bowden, Sanders was a two time consensus All-American cornerback in 1986 and 1987, and a third team All-American in 1988, intercepting 14 passes in his career, including three in bowl games, and managed to return one interception 100 yards for a touchdown breaking Fred Biletnikoff‘s interception return record by one yard. He won the Jim Thorpe Award in 1988. He was also a standout punt returner for Florida State, leading the nation in 1988 with his punt return
average, and breaking the school’s record for career punt return yards.
Based on those accolades, his jersey at Florida State, #2, was retired
in 1995. He finished his career with 126 PR for 1,429 yards.
While playing baseball under head coach Mike Martin, at Florida State, Sanders hit .331 in 1986; he was known more for base stealing, compiling 27 stolen bases in 1987. Sanders was drafted while in college by the New York Yankees (He also was selected by the Kansas City Royals out of North Fort Myers High School, though he did not sign.)
Sanders once played the first game of a baseball doubleheader, ran a leg of a 4×100 relay, then returned to play another baseball game.
Sanders has been married twice — to Carolyn Chambers, with whom he
has two children (Deion Jr. and Deiondra), and Pilar Biggers with whom
he has 3 children (Shilo, Shedeur and Shelomi). Deion appeared with his
family on the NBC show Celebrity Family Feud
which premiered on June 24, 2008. On September 22, 2011 Deion served
Pilar Biggers-Sanders with divorce papers. Deion then backed away from
the story and denied he and Pilar would be divorcing.
|Sanders and ex wife Pilar Sanders|
By December 17, 2011, Sanders again admitted he was, in fact, getting divorced.
Deion Sanders, along with J.M. Black, published his autobiography, Power, Money & Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life. World Publishing 1998. The book was inspired after he began counseling with Bishop T.D. Jakes. Sanders notes his agent Eugene E. Parker as another person who also influenced his life.
Sanders played a nine-year, part-time baseball career, playing left
and center field in 641 games with 4 teams. He was originally drafted by
the Kansas City Royals in the 6th round of the 1985 draft, but did not sign with them. Had he signed with the Royals, he would have had a chance to be teammates with Bo Jackson, another dual NFL-MLB player. He was drafted again in the 30th round of the 1988 draft by the New York Yankees and signed with the team on June 22. Sanders later signed with the Atlanta Braves, and during his most productive year in the majors, the 1992 season, he hit .304 for the team, stole 26 bases, and led the NL with 14 triples in 97 games. During the 1989 season, he hit a major league home run
and scored a touchdown in the NFL in the same week, the only player
ever to do so. Sanders is also the only man to play in both a Super Bowl and a World Series.
Sanders is known in Braves lore as the player who brought the
“tomahawk chop”. It was adopted by those fans, as Sanders, a Florida
State alum, was familiar with the Seminoles War Chant. The tomahawk chop
continues to be a rally gesture for Braves fans.
On May 22, 1990, Sanders became involved in a dispute with MLB catcher Carlton Fisk.
Sanders, a Yankee, started by stepping up to the plate with one out and
a runner on third, drawing a dollar sign in the dirt before the pitch
and then failed to run to first base after hitting a routine pop fly to
shortstop, trotting back to the dugout instead. The Yankee fans booed,
and Fisk, who was on the opposing Chicago White Sox, told Sanders to
“run the fucking ball out” and called Sanders a “piece of shit.” Later
in the game, Sanders told Fisk that “the days of slavery are over.” Fisk
was furious. “He comes up and wants to make it a racial issue, there’s
no racial issue involved. There is a right way and a wrong way to play
this game.” The infamous incident was later recounted by Fisk on both ESPN Classic and a CNBC interview with Tim Russert on his show.
On July 31 of the 1991 MLB season, Sanders hit a key three-run homer to spark a comeback win against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the Braves’ improbable run to the National League West Division title. However, he had to leave the Braves the very next day to report to the Atlanta Falcons because of a clause in his NFL contract and missed the postseason. Before the 1992 season,
Sanders reworked his NFL deal whereby he still reported to the Falcons
for training camp in August, but was allowed to rejoin the Braves for
In four games of the 1992 World Series, Sanders batted .533 with 4 runs, 8 hits, 2 doubles, and 1 RBI while playing with a broken bone in his foot. Despite Sanders’s performance, the Braves ultimately lost to the Toronto Blue Jays
in six games. In Game 3, he narrowly avoided being a victim of what
would have been only the second triple play in World Series history
(following Bill Wambsganss‘s unassisted triple play in 1920). With Sanders on second base and Terry Pendleton on first, David Justice hit a deep fly ball to center field that Blue Jays center fielder Devon White unexpectedly caught with a leaping effort. Pendleton passed Sanders on the bases for the second out, but umpire Bob Davidson called Sanders safe after he scampered back to second base. Replays showed that Toronto third baseman Kelly Gruber tagged him on the heel before he returned to second.
In 1997, Sanders finished 2nd in the NL with 56 stolen bases in 115 games while with the Cincinnati Reds before leaving baseball for three years.
Sanders returned to the Reds in 2001,
but was released after playing in only 29 games and batting just .173.
Following his release from the Reds he signed a minor league contract
with the Toronto Blue Jays triple-A affiliate, Syracuse Chiefs.
Sanders was hitting .337 for Syracuse before the Washington Redskins
found a loophole in his contract that said he could miss training camp
and the first few games of the season if he were playing Major League
Baseball. Since he was not currently on an MLB roster, Sanders had to
leave Syracuse and return to the Redskins so he would not violate his
NFL contract. But before arriving at training camp, Sanders informed
Redskins personnel he was retiring from professional baseball. In his
final professional baseball game, Sanders hit a solo home run and an RBI
single in Syracuse’s 12-6 win over the Toledo Mud Hens. 
As those in MLB and the NFL urged Sanders to concentrate on only one
sport, he would often explain, “football is my wife and baseball is my
Sanders’ professional football career started the same year as his baseball career, 1989. At the 1989 NFL Scouting Combine, Sanders ran a 4.27-second 40-yard dash, which was considered to be second in Combine history behind Bo Jackson of Auburn in 1986. He was the fifth pick overall in the 1989 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons, where he played until 1993.
Sanders returned his first career punt return for a touchdown. During
his time in Atlanta, he intercepted 24 passes (including a career high 7
in 1993), three of which he returned for touchdowns. In 1992,
he also led the league in kickoff return yards (1,067), yards per
return (26.7) and return touchdowns (2). On October 11, 1992, Sanders
played in a Falcons game at Miami and then flew to Pittsburgh, hoping to
play in the Braves’ League Championship Series game against the Pirates
that evening and become the first athlete to play in two professional
leagues in the same day. Sanders ultimately did not, however, appear in the baseball game that night. Over his five years with the Falcons, Sanders found his way to the end zone ten times (three defensive, three kick returns, two punt returns, and two receptions).
San Francisco 49ers
After five seasons Sanders signed on to play one season with the San Francisco 49ers,
where he had arguably his best season as a professional football
player, recording six interceptions and returning them for an NFL best
303 yards and three touchdowns. On October 16, 1994, Deion was the big
story as he made his dramatic return to the Georgia Dome in a 49er uniform. After getting into a scuffle with his former Falcon teammate Andre Rison, Sanders intercepted a pass from quarterback Jeff George
and proceeded to return it 93 yards while mockingly staring down the
entire Falcons sideline before high-stepping into the end zone. Sanders
was later voted the 1994 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and recorded an interception in the 49ers 49–26 win over the San Diego Chargers in Super Bowl XXIX. After the season, Jerry Rice
and Sanders publicly feuded — Rice fumed at the idea that the media
felt Sanders was the missing link to the 49ers Super Bowl run and that
it was not giving credit to the other 52 men in the locker room.
Following his successful season with the 49ers, Sanders, along with his agent Eugene Parker,
proceeded to court numerous teams in need of an All-Pro cornerback. The
several teams in the “Deion Sweepstakes,” as it was coined by the
media, were the Philadelphia Eagles, Oakland Raiders, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys, who had lost their starting cornerback Kevin Smith to injury for the rest of the season.
On September 9, 1995 (which happened to fall in Week 2 of that NFL
season), Sanders signed a lucrative contract with the Dallas Cowboys
(seven years, $35 million with a $12.99 million signing bonus),
essentially making him, at the time, the highest-paid defensive player
in the NFL. Sanders later stated in his book Power, Money & Sex: How Success Almost Ruined My Life
that the Oakland Raiders offered him more money than any other team,
but he chose to play in Dallas for more time on the offensive side of
the ball, a chance to win back-to-back Super Bowls, and because of his
friendship with Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin. Arthroscopic surgery kept him sidelined until his debut in Week 9, which was once again in Atlanta against the Falcons,
though this time Sanders’ debut with his new team was not as dramatic
as it was with the 49ers (the Cowboys won, 28-13). He went on to help
the Cowboys win their third Super Bowl title in four years in Super Bowl XXX against the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he returned a punt
for 11 yards and caught a 47-yard reception on offense, setting up
Dallas’ first touchdown of the game and a 27–17 victory. Sanders
proceeded to play four more seasons with Dallas, earning Pro Bowl berths in all of them, though the Cowboys would only win one playoff game (in 1996 against the Minnesota Vikings) during that time.
After five seasons with the Cowboys, new Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder pursued Sanders along with other high priced free agents Mark Carrier and Bruce Smith. Sanders played one season with the Redskins, having four interceptions before retiring in 2001. Late in the 2002 NFL season Sanders contemplated a return to the NFL, specifically to the Oakland Raiders. With his rights still the property of the Redskins, he lobbied and received his release from the team and was waived. The San Diego Chargers claimed Sanders’ rights and placed him on their Reserve-Retired List. Sanders opted to stay retired.
During the 2002 season, Sanders was a frequent guest commentator on Monday Night Football.
On an amusing note, during a Monday Night Football game between Dallas
and Washington that year, it was mentioned that Sanders, who was part of
the broadcast team for the game, was still collecting salaries from
both teams as part of the contracts he had held with each.
In 2004, Sanders announced that he was going to end his retirement, after being lured back to football by Ravens cornerback Corey Fuller, linebacker Ray Lewis and best friend Joe Zorovich. He signed a 1-year deal with the Baltimore Ravens to be a nickelback.
Sanders chose to wear the number 37, which matched his age at the time,
to preemptively let people know that he was well aware of his relative
senior status as an NFL player (additionally, the number 21, used by
Sanders throughout his career, was already being worn by Ravens Pro Bowl
cornerback Chris McAlister).
Against the Buffalo Bills in Week 7 of 2004, Sanders scored his ninth
career interception return touchdown, moving him into a tie for second
place with Ken Houston and Aeneas Williams, and behind Rod Woodson (with 12) for all-time in the statistical category.
In January 2006, after playing two seasons for Baltimore in which the
Ravens did not qualify for the postseason, Sanders once again retired
from the NFL and became an analyst for the NFL Network.
During his 14-year NFL career, Sanders was a perennial All-Pro and
one of the most feared pass defenders to ever play the game. While
critics argued that his tackling was poor and he was not much of a
factor in run support, they could not deny his closing speed.
Sanders also occasionally lined up with his team’s offense. During the 1996 season, Sanders skipped the baseball season by concentrating strictly on football and attended the first NFL training camp
of his career to better familiarize himself with the nuances of the
wide receiver position. He became the second two-way starter (after the
Cardinals’ Roy Green) in the NFL since Chuck Bednarik for the first half of the season due to Michael Irvin serving a five game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
During his career, Sanders intercepted 53 passes for 1,331 yards (a
25.1 yards per return average), recovered four fumbles for 15 yards,
returned 155 kickoffs for 3,523 yards, gained 2,199 yards on 212 punt
returns, and caught 60 passes for 784 yards. Sanders amassed 7,838
all-purpose yards and scored 22 touchdowns: nine interception returns,
six punt returns, three kickoff returns, three receiving, and one fumble
recovery. His 19 defensive and return touchdowns are an NFL record. He
was selected to eight Pro Bowls in 1991—1994, 1996–1999. He was also awarded the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1994.
- College Football News named Sanders #8 in its list of 100 Greatest College Football Players of All-Time.
- The Sporting News named Sanders #37 in their Top 100 Football Players of the Century released in 1999.
- ESPN named Sanders #74 in its list of the 100 Great Athletes of the Century released in 1999.
- NFL.com named Sanders #34 on NFL’s Top 100 list released in late 2010
- On November 11, 2010 Sanders was inducted into the Atlanta Falcons’ Ring of Honor.
- On February 5, 2011 Sanders was announced as a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee in his first year of eligibility.
- On May 17, 2011, Sanders was announced as a College Football Hall of Fame inductee.
- On August 6, 2011, Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Sanders also had a rushing TD in the playoffs (against the
Philadelphia Eagles in January 1996). This makes him (including post
season) one of only two players in NFL history (Bill Dudley
being the other) to score a touchdown six different ways (interception
return, punt return, kickoff return, receiving, rushing, and a fumble
On February 6, 2011, at Super Bowl XLV, Sanders performed the pre-game coin toss.
Media appearances and pop culture fame
Sanders has been in numerous television commercials for Nike, Pepsi, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and American Express. He was most notable as the Road Runner in a Pepsi ad with Wile E. Coyote,
and in a Pizza Hut commercial where he responds to Dallas Cowboys owner
Jerry Jones questions (“Football or baseball?” and “Offense or
defense?”) with “both!!”, including the question “So what’ll it be,
Deion? $15…20 million?” Sanders pauses to think it over, and says,
“Umm…both.” He also makes a cameo as himself in the film Celtic Pride.
Sanders, known for his custom-made showy suits and flashy jewelry,
frequently capitalized on his image. On December 26, 1994 Sanders
released Prime Time, a rap album on Bust It Records (MC Hammer‘s
label) that featured the minor hit “Must Be The Money.” “Prime Time
Keeps on Tickin'” was also released as a single.
Sanders, a friend of
Hammer’s, appeared in his “Too Legit to Quit” music video. His alter-ego “Prime Time” is also used in Hammer’s “Pumps and a Bump”
video. Hammer, a big sports fan, had launched a new enterprise during
his career called Roll Wit It Entertainment & Sports Management
(which released DRS‘ two-million-selling “Gangsta Lean“) and had clients such as Evander Holyfield, Deion Sanders and Reggie Brooks. In 1995, Hammer released “Straight to My Feet” (with Deion Sanders) from the Street Fighter soundtrack (released in December 1994). The song charted #57 in the UK.
After retiring from the NFL, Sanders worked as a sports pre-game commentator for CBS‘ The NFL Today until 2004,
when contract negotiations failed. Sanders turned down a 30% salary
increase demanding to be paid $2.5 million, the highest of any NFL TV
analyst. He was replaced by Shannon Sharpe.
During Sanders’s run, he participated in several sketches. The first
was “Primetime and 21st,” a mock street corner where Sanders (not yet a
regular panelist) would give his opinions. Another was his “Sanders
Claus” persona, one of numerous sketches that involved young kids in
football jerseys, representing NFL players, receiving a sarcastic gift
from Sanders. Deion actually debuted as “Sanders Claus” in a set of Nike
commercials. Still to this day Deion takes presents at Christmas time
to local children’s hospitals in his area dressed as “Sanders Claus”.
Sanders frequently made guest appearances on ESPN, especially on the ESPN Radio Dallas affiliate, and briefly hosted a show called The New American Sportsman. He also hosted the 2002 Miss USA pageant.
Sanders also was co-host of the 2004 GMA Music Awards broadcast, taped in late April 2004, slated for an airing on UPN in May 2004. When negotiations with fellow Viacom
property CBS failed (see above) two weeks before the broadcast, and he
signed a deal with ESPN, UPN promptly canceled the broadcast, and the
show aired on the i Network in December 2004 (both UPN and CBS are now owned by CBS Corporation).
Sanders currently works at NFL Network as an analyst on a number of the network’s shows. Prior to the Sunday night game, Sanders, alongside host Rich Eisen and Steve Mariucci, breaks down all the action from the afternoon matchups on NFL GameDay Highlights.
At the conclusion of all the action on Sunday, Sanders, Mariucci,
Michael Irvin and host Fran Charles recap the day’s action on NFL GameDay Final with highlights, analysis and postgame interviews. For the 2010 season, Sanders joined Eisen, Mariucci and Marshall Faulk on the road for Thursday Night Kickoff Presented by Lexus, NFL Network’s two-hour pregame show leading into Thursday Night Football.
The group broadcasts live from the stadium two hours prior to all eight
live Thursday Night Football games and returns for the Sprint Halftime
Show and Kay Jewelers Postgame Show. Sanders also has a segment called
“Let’s Go Primetime” on NFL Network. In a notable incident in 2011, Joe Theismann mistakenly pronounced Danny Woodhead’s name as “Danny Woodcock”, causing Sanders to laugh hysterically and fall off his chair.
|Deion & Pilar: Prime Time Love|
Controversy ensued after the 2010 NFC Championship game, where Sanders was one of the critics of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, saying on Twitter
“”Im telling u in the playoffs u must drag me off the field. All the
medicine in pro lockerooms this dude comes out! I apologize bear fans!
… Folks i never question a players injury but i do question a players
In 2008 Sanders and his wife starred in the reality show Deion & Pilar: Prime Time Love, centering around them and their five children living in the small town of Prosper, Texas.
“Prime Time” personality
Deion Sanders became memorable for sporting a “do-rag or bandana” and for his “High-Stepping” into the end zone followed by his touchdown dance celebrations.
He was also one of the most visible and outspoken football players to
ever take the field due to his alter-ego, Prime Time. A marketing ploy
as much as an alternate personality, it was given to him by a friend and
high school teammate, Florida Gators defensive back Richard Fain. The two played pickup basketball games together during the prime time
television hour, and Sanders’ athletic display during those games won
him that title. Once in the NFL, Sanders felt he deserved to be paid as
much as NFL quarterbacks and in 1995 he used the “Prime Time” strategy
to sign a seven-year, $35 million contract with the Dallas Cowboys (the
contract was essentially five years, but was given a seven-year length
for an easier cap hit and the signing bonus was $12,999,999.99, one cent
under $13 million due to a superstition of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones).
At one point, he was the highest paid defensive player in the league
and set the benchmark price-tag for future “shut-down corners”. Prime
Time was upset that he was placed #34 on the list of Top 100 NFL players
and said that he should at least be in the top 10.
At the end of his Hall of Fame speech, he put a bandana on his bust. 
In addition to his sports career, Sanders also had a career in music as a rapper. He released his debut album Prime Time on Capitol Records in 1994. Sanders moved on to other ventures after his retirement. In 2003, Sanders took interest in Devin Hester, a return specialist from the University of Miami Hurricanes. Sanders mentored Hester, counseling and advising him during various points of his collegiate career. The Chicago Bears drafted Hester in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
Since then, Hester has broken the record for the most total returns for
touchdowns in NFL history with 12 punt returns and 5 kick off returns.
Hester has cited Sanders as one of his major inspirations and idols, and
thanked him for his training and advice. Hester, also known as
“Anytime,” occasionally performs Sanders’ signature touchdown dance and
high-steps in homage to his mentor.
Sanders also tried to adopt a high school running back, Noel Devine,
who was one of the top recruits in 2007. Sanders was advised against
this, but responded, “He doesn’t have parents; they died. God put this
young man in my heart. This is not about sports. This is about a kid’s
life.” He now mentors Devine, and was a factor in Devine’s extended wait
to sign a letter-of-intent to West Virginia University. Devine eventually signed to play football for the Mountaineers. Sanders has also been the mentor to San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree, as well as Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, Dez Bryant.
In January 2004, Sanders was hired as an assistant coach to the Dallas Fury, a women’s professional basketball team in the National Women’s Basketball League, even though Sanders had never played organized basketball either in college or the professional level.
On September 2, 2005, in response to the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina, Sanders challenged all professional athletes in the four major sports to donate $1,000
each to relief efforts, hoping to raise between $1.5 and $3 million
total. Sanders said “Through unity, we can touch thousands….I have
friends and relatives that feel this pain. Help in any way you can.” In April 2006, Sanders became an owner of the Austin Wranglers, an Arena Football League team.
Sanders has occasionally served as a celebrity spokesperson, such as representing Monitronics, a security system firm, at an industry conference in the spring of 2010.
|US Hip-Hop||US Heatseekers|
|2005||The Encore Remix||–||–|
|“—” denotes the album failed to chart or not released|
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Who is Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal? The Sports World knows his as Shaquille O’Neal or by his nicknamed “Shaq“. O’ Neal is a retired American basketball player and current analyst on the television program Inside the NBA.
Standing 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) tall and weighing 325 pounds (147 kg), he
was one of the heaviest players ever to play in the NBA. Throughout his
19-year career, O’Neal used his size and strength to overpower opponents
for points and rebounds.
Following his career at Louisiana State University, O’Neal was drafted by the Orlando Magic with the first overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. He quickly became one of the top centers in the league, winning Rookie of the Year in 1992–93 and later leading his team to the 1995 NBA Finals. After four years with the Magic, O’Neal signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers. He won three consecutive championships in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Amid tension between O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat in 2004, and his fourth NBA championship followed in 2006. Midway through the 2007–2008 season he was traded to the Phoenix Suns. After a season-and-a-half with the Suns, O’Neal was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2009–10 season. O’Neal played for the Boston Celtics in the 2010–11 season before retiring.
O’Neal’s individual accolades include the 1999–2000 MVP award, the 1992–93 NBA Rookie of the Year award, 15 All-Star game selections, three All-Star Game MVP awards, three Finals MVP awards, two scoring titles, 14 All-NBA team selections, and three NBA All-Defensive Team selections. He is one of only three players to win NBA MVP, All-Star game MVP and Finals MVP awards in the same year (2000); the other players are Willis Reed in 1970 and Michael Jordan in 1996 and 1998. He ranks 6th all-time in points scored, 5th in field goals, 13th in rebounds, and 7th in blocks.
In addition to his basketball career, O’Neal has released four rap albums, with his first, Shaq Diesel, going platinum. He has appeared in numerous films and has starred in his own reality shows, Shaq’s Big Challenge and Shaq Vs..
O’Neal was born March 6, 1972 in Newark, New Jersey.
He remains estranged from his biological father, Joseph Toney of
Newark. Toney, who was once an All-State guard in high school who was
offered a basketball scholarship to play at Seton Hall,
struggled with drug addiction and was, by 1973, imprisoned for drug
possession when O’Neal was an infant. Upon his release, Toney did not
resume a place in O’Neal’s life and instead, agreed to relinquish his
parental visitation rights to O’Neal’s stepfather, Phillip A. Harrison, a
career Army Reserve sergeant, and his mother, Lucille (née O’Neal). O’Neal and Toney have never spoken, and O’Neal has expressed no interest in establishing a relationship. On his 1994 rap album, Shaq Fu: The Return, O’Neal voiced his feelings of disdain for Toney in the song “Biological Didn’t Bother“, dismissing him with the line “Phil is my father.”
O’Neal credits the Boys and Girls Club of America
in his hometown of Newark, New Jersey, with giving him a safe place to
play and keeping him off the streets. “It gave me something to do,” he
said. “I’d just go there to shoot. I didn’t even play on a team.” He led his Robert G. Cole High School team, from San Antonio, Texas, to a 68–1 record during his two years there and helped the team win the state championship during his senior year. His 791 rebounds during the 1989 season remains a state record for a player in any classification.
On January 31, 2012, O’Neal was honored as one of the 35 Greatest McDonald’s All-Americans.
After graduating from high school, O’Neal studied business at Louisiana State University. He had first met Dale Brown, LSU’s men’s basketball coach, years earlier in Europe. O’Neal’s stepfather was stationed on a U.S. Army base at Wildflecken, West Germany. While playing for Brown at LSU, O’Neal was a two-time All-American, two-time SEC player of the year, and received the Adolph Rupp Trophy as NCAA men’s basketball player of the year in 1991. O’Neal left LSU early to pursue his NBA career, but continued his education even after becoming a professional player. He was later inducted into the LSU Hall of Fame.
Orlando Magic (1992–1996)
The Orlando Magic drafted O’Neal with the 1st overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. During that summer, prior to moving to Orlando, he spent a significant amount of time in Los Angeles under the tutelage of Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. During his rookie season, O’Neal averaged 23.4 points on 56.2% shooting, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game for the season. He was named the 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year and became the first rookie to be voted an All-Star starter since Michael Jordan in 1985.
The Magic finished 41–41, winning 20 more games than the previous
season; however, the team ultimately missed the playoffs by virtue of a
tie-breaker with the Indiana Pacers. On more than one occasion during the year, Sports Illustrated writer Jack McCallum overheard O’Neal saying, “We’ve got to get [head coach] Matty [Guokas] out of here and bring in [assistant] Brian [Hill].”
In O’Neal’s second season, Hill was the coach and Guokas was reassigned to the front office. O’Neal improved his scoring average to 29.4 points (second in the league to David Robinson) while leading the NBA in field goal percentage at 60%. On November 20, 1993, against the New Jersey Nets, O’Neal registered the first triple-double of his career, recording 24 points to go along with career highs of 28 rebounds and 15 blocks. He was voted into the All-Star game and also made the All-NBA 3rd Team. Teamed with newly drafted Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, the Magic finished with a record of 50–32 and made the playoffs
for the first time in franchise history. In his first playoff series,
O’Neal averaged 20.7 points and 13.3 rebounds in a losing effort as the
Magic lost every game to the Indiana Pacers.
In his third season, O’Neal’s 29.3 point average led the NBA in scoring.
He finished second in MVP voting to David Robinson and was voted into
his third straight All-Star Game along with Hardaway. They formed one of
the league’s top duos and helped Orlando to a 57–25 record and the Atlantic Division crown. The Magic won their first ever playoff series against the Boston Celtics in the 1995 NBA Playoffs. They then defeated the Chicago Bulls in the conference semi-finals. After beating Reggie Miller‘s Indiana Pacers, the Magic reached the NBA Finals, facing the defending NBA champion Houston Rockets.
O’Neal played well in his first Finals appearance, averaging 28 points
on 59.5% shooting, 12.5 rebounds, and 6.3 assists. Despite this, the
Rockets, led by future Hall-of-Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, swept the series in four games.
O’Neal was injured for a great deal of the 1995–96 season,
missing 28 games. He averaged 26.6 points and 11 rebounds per game,
made the All-NBA 3rd Team, and played in his 4th All-Star Game. Despite
O’Neal’s injuries, the Magic finished with a regular season record of
60–22, second in the Eastern conference to the Chicago Bulls, who
finished with an NBA record 72 wins. Orlando easily defeated the Detroit Pistons and the Atlanta Hawks in the first two rounds of the 1996 NBA Playoffs; however, they were no match for Jordan’s Bulls, who swept them in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Los Angeles Lakers (1996–2004)
O’Neal became a free agent after the 95–96 NBA season. In the summer of 1996, O’Neal was named to the United States Olympic basketball team, and was later part of the gold medal-winning team at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. While the Olympic basketball team was training in Orlando, the Orlando Sentinel published a poll that asked whether the Magic should fire Hill if that were one of O’Neal’s conditions for returning. 82% answered “no”. O’Neal had a power struggle while playing under Hill. He said the team “just didn’t respect [Hill].”
Another question in the poll asked, “Is Shaq worth $115 million?” in
reference to the amount of the Magic’s offer. 91.3% of the response was
“no”. O’Neal’s Olympic teammates rode him hard over the poll.
He was also upset that the Orlando media implied O’Neal was not a good
role model for having a child with his longtime girlfriend with no
immediate plans to marry. O’Neal compared his lack of privacy in Orlando to “feeling like a big fish in a dried-up pond.”
O’Neal also learned that Hardaway considered himself the leader of the
Magic and did not want O’Neal making more money than him. On the team’s first full day at the Olympics in Atlanta, it was announced that O’Neal would join the Los Angeles Lakers on a seven-year, $121 million contract.
He insisted he did not choose Los Angeles for the money. “I’m tired of
hearing about money, money, money, money, money,” O’Neal said after the
signing. “I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok,” he added, referring to a couple of his product endorsements. The Lakers won 56 games during the 1996–97 season.
O’Neal averaged 26.2 points and 12.5 rebounds in his first season with
Los Angeles; however, he again missed over 30 games due to injury. The
Lakers made the playoffs, but were eliminated in the second round by the
Utah Jazz in five games. On December 17, 1996, O’Neal shoved Dennis Rodman of the Chicago Bulls; Rodman’s teammates Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan restrained Rodman and prevented further conflict. The Los Angeles Daily News
reported that O’Neal was willing to be suspended for fighting Rodman,
and O’Neal said: “It’s one thing to talk tough and one thing to be
The following season,
O’Neal averaged 28.3 points and 11.4 rebounds. He also led the league
with a 58.4 field goal percentage, the first of five consecutive seasons
in which he did so. The Lakers finished the season 61–21, first in the Pacific Division, and were the second seed in the western conference during the 1998 NBA Playoffs. After defeating the Portland Trail Blazers and Seattle SuperSonics in the first two rounds, the Lakers again fell to the Jazz, this time in a 4–0 sweep.
With the tandem of O’Neal and teenage superstar Kobe Bryant, expectations for the Lakers increased. However, personnel changes were a source of instability during the 1998–99 season. Long-time Laker point guard Nick Van Exel was traded to the Denver Nuggets; his former backcourt partner Eddie Jones was packaged with back-up center Elden Campbell for Glen Rice to satisfy a demand by O’Neal for a shooter. Coach Del Harris was fired, and former Lakers forward Kurt Rambis finished the season as head coach. The Lakers finished with a 31–19 record during the lockout-shortened season. Although they made the playoffs, they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs, led by Tim Duncan and David Robinson in the second round of the Western Conference playoffs. The Spurs would go on to win their first NBA title that year.
In 1999, the Lakers hired Phil Jackson
as head coach, and the team’s fortunes soon changed. Jackson
immediately challenged O’Neal, telling him “the [NBA’s] MVP trophy
should be named after him when he retired.” Using Jackson’s triangle offense,
O’Neal and Bryant enjoyed tremendous success, leading the Lakers to
three consecutive titles (2000, 2001, and 2002). O’Neal was named MVP of the NBA Finals all three times and had the highest scoring average for a center in NBA Finals history. In the November 10, 1999, game against the Houston Rockets, O’Neal and Charles Barkley were ejected. After O’Neal blocked a layup by Barkley, O’Neal shoved Barkley, who then threw the ball at O’Neal.
O’Neal was also voted the 1999–2000 regular season Most Valuable Player, one vote short of becoming the first unanimous MVP in NBA history. Fred Hickman, then of CNN, instead chose Allen Iverson, then of the Philadelphia 76ers
who would go on to win MVP the next season. O’Neal also won the scoring
title while finishing second in rebounds and third in blocked shots.
Jackson’s influence resulted in a newfound commitment by O’Neal to
defense, resulting in his first All-Defensive Team selection (second-team) in 2000.
In the 2001 NBA Finals against the 76ers, O’Neal fouled out in Game 3 backing over Dikembe Mutombo, the 2000–2001 Defensive Player of the Year. “I didn’t think the best defensive player in the game would be flopping
like that. It’s a shame that the referees buy into that,” O’Neal said.
“I wish he’d stand up and play me like a man instead of flopping and
crying every time I back him down.
In the summer of 2001, holding a basketball camp on the campus of Louisiana State University, O’Neal was challenged to a friendly wrestling match by future LSU and NBA player Glen “Big Baby” Davis,
then 15 years of age and attending high school. O’Neal, weighing 350 lb
(160 kg; 25 st), was impressed by the youngster, who lifted and body-slammed him to the ground. A month before the 2001–02 season’s training camp, O’Neal had corrective surgery for a claw toe deformity in the smallest toe of his left foot. He opted against a more involved surgery to return quicker. He was ready for the start of the regular season, but the toe frequently bothered him. In January 2002 he was involved in a spectacular on-court brawl in a game against the Chicago Bulls. He punched center Brad Miller after an intentional foul to prevent a basket, resulting in a melee with Miller, forward Charles Oakley, and several other players. O’Neal was suspended for three games without pay and fined $15,000.
For the season, O’Neal averaged 27.2 points and 10.7 rebounds,
excellent statistics but below his career average; he was less of a
defensive force during the season.
Matched up against the Sacramento Kings in the 2002 Western Conference finals,
O’Neal said, “There is only one way to beat us. It starts with c and
ends with t.” O’Neal meant “cheat” in reference to the alleged flopping
of Kings’ center Vlade Divac.
O’Neal referred to Divac as “she”, and said he would never exaggerate
contact to draw a foul. “I’m a guy with no talent who has gotten this
way with hard work.”
After the season, O’Neal told friends that he did not want another
season of limping and being in virtually constant pain from his big
right toe. His trademark mobility and explosion had been often absent.
The corrective options ranged from reconstructive surgery on the toe to rehabilitation exercises with more shoe inserts and anti-inflammation
medication. O’Neal was already wary of the long-term damage his
frequent consumption of these medications might have. He did not want to
rush a decision with his career potentially at risk.
Toe surgery to departure
O’Neal missed the first 12 games of the 2002–2003 season recovering from toe surgery. He was sidelined with hallux rigidus, a degenerative arthritis in his toe.
He waited the whole summer until just before training camp for the
surgery and explained, “I got hurt on company time, so I’ll heal on
O’Neal debated whether to have a more invasive surgery that would have
kept him out an additional three months, but he opted against the more
involved procedure. The Lakers started the season with a record of 11–19.
After the Lakers fell to the fifth seed and failed to reach the Finals
in 2003, the team made a concerted off-season effort to improve its
roster. They sought the free-agent services of forward Karl Malone and aging guard Gary Payton, but due to salary cap
restrictions, could not offer either one nearly as much money as they
could have made with some other teams. O’Neal assisted in the
recruitment efforts and personally persuaded both men to join the squad.
Ultimately, both signed, each forgoing larger salaries in favor of a
chance to win an NBA championship, which neither had accomplished in his
career (and which neither would achieve with the Lakers). At the
beginning of the 2003–04 season,
O’Neal wanted a contract extension with a pay raise on his remaining
three years for $30 million. The Lakers had hoped O’Neal would take less
money due to his age, physical conditioning, and games missed due to
injuries. During a preseason game, O’Neal had yelled at Lakers owner Jerry Buss, “Pay me.” There had been increasing tension between O’Neal and Bryant, the feud
climaxing on the eve of training camp in 2003 when Kobe, in an
interview with ESPN journalist Jim Gray, criticized Shaq for being out
of shape, a poor leader, and putting his salary demands over the best
interest of the Lakers.
The Lakers lost to the Detroit Pistons in the 2004 NBA Finals. Lakers assistant coach Tex Winter
said, “Shaq defeated himself against Detroit. He played way too
passively. He had one big game … He’s always interested in being a
scorer, but he hasn’t had nearly enough concentration on defense and
rebounding.” After the series, O’Neal was angered by comments made by Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak regarding O’Neal’s future with the club, as well as by the departure of Lakers coach Phil Jackson
at the request of Buss. O’Neal made comments indicating that he felt
the team’s decisions were centered on a desire to appease Bryant to the
exclusion of all other concerns, and O’Neal promptly demanded a trade.
Kupchak wanted the Dallas Mavericks‘s Dirk Nowitzki in return but Cuban refused to let his 7-footer go. However, Miami showed interest and eventually the two clubs agreed.
Winter said, “[O’Neal] left because he couldn’t get what he wanted—a
huge pay raise. There was no way ownership could give him what he
wanted. Shaq’s demands held the franchise hostage, and the way he went
about it didn’t please the owner too much.”
Miami Heat (2004–2008)
On July 14, 2004, O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat for Caron Butler, Lamar Odom, Brian Grant and a future first-round draft
choice. O’Neal reverted from (his Lakers jersey) number 34 to number
32, which he had worn while playing for the Magic. Upon signing with the
Heat, O’Neal promised the fans that he would bring a championship to
Miami. He claimed that one of the main reasons for wanting to be traded
to Miami was because of their up-and-coming star, Dwyane Wade.
With O’Neal on board, the new-look Heat surpassed expectations,
claiming the best record in the Eastern Conference. He averaged 22.9 ppg
and 10.4 rpg, made his 12th consecutive All-Star Team, and made the
All-NBA 1st Team. Despite being hobbled by a deep thigh bruise, O’Neal
led the Heat to the Eastern Conference Finals and a Game 7 against the defending champion Detroit Pistons, losing by a narrow margin. Afterwards, O’Neal and others criticized Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy for not calling enough plays for O’Neal. O’Neal also narrowly lost the 2004–05 MVP Award to Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash in one of the closest votes in NBA history.
In August 2005, O’Neal signed a 5-year-extension with the Heat for
$100 million. Supporters applauded O’Neal’s willingness to take what
amounted to a pay cut and the Heat’s decision to secure O’Neal’s
services for the long term. They contended that O’Neal was worth more
than $20 million per year, particularly given that lesser players earned
almost the same amount.
In the second game of the 2005–06 season,
O’Neal injured his right ankle and subsequently missed the following 18
games. Upon O’Neal’s return, Van Gundy resigned, citing family reasons,
and Pat Riley assumed head coach responsibilities.
Many critics stated that Heat coach Riley correctly managed O’Neal
during the rest of the season, limiting his minutes to a career low.
Riley felt doing so would allow O’Neal to be healthier and fresher come
playoff time. Although O’Neal averaged career lows (or near-lows) in
points, rebounds, and blocks, he said in an interview “Stats don’t
matter. I care about winning, not stats. If I score 0 points and we win
I’m happy. If I score 50, 60 points, break the records, and we lose, I’m
pissed off. ‘Cause I knew I did something wrong. I’ll have a hell of a
season if I win the championship and average 20 points a game.” During
the 2005–06 season, the Heat recorded only a .500 record without O’Neal
in the line-up.
On April 11, 2006, O’Neal recorded his second career triple-double against the Toronto Raptors
with 15 points, 11 rebounds and a career high 10 assists. O’Neal
finished the season as the league leader in field goal percentage.
In the 2006 NBA Playoffs, the Miami Heat won their first NBA Championship. Led by both O’Neal and eventual Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, the 2nd seeded Heat defeated the defending Eastern Conference Champion and top-seeded Detroit Pistons in a rematch of the 2005 Conference Finals. They then defeated the Dallas Mavericks in the 2006 NBA Finals.
O’Neal put up considerably lower numbers compared to those he
recorded during the 2005–06 regular season, but he twice delivered
dominant games in order to close out a playoff series: a 30 point, 20
rebound effort in Game 6 against the Chicago Bulls
in the first round, and a 28 point, 16 rebound, 5 block effort in Game 6
against the Pistons. It was O’Neal’s fourth title in seven seasons, and
fulfilled his promise of delivering an NBA championship to Miami.
Surgery and Wade’s injury
In the 2006–07 season, O’Neal missed the next 35 games after an injury to his left knee in November required surgery.
After one of those missed games, a Christmas Day match-up against the
Lakers, he ripped Jackson, who O’Neal had once called a second father,
referring to his former coach as Benedict Arnold. Jackson had previously said, “The only person I’ve ever [coached] that hasn’t been a worker … is probably Shaq.”
The Heat struggled during O’Neal’s absence, but with his return won
seven of their next eight games. Bad luck still haunted the squad,
however, as Wade dislocated his left shoulder, leaving O’Neal as the
focus of the team. Critics doubted that O’Neal, now in his mid-thirties,
could carry the team into the playoffs. The Heat went on a winning
streak that kept them in the race for a playoff spot, which they finally
secured against the Cleveland Cavaliers on April 5.
In a rematch of the year before, the Heat faced the Bulls in the
first round. The Heat struggled against the Bulls and although O’Neal
put up reasonable numbers, he was not able to dominate the series. The
Bulls swept the Heat, the first time in 50 years a defending NBA
champion was swept in the opening round.
It was the first time in 13 years that O’Neal did not advance into the
second round. In the 2006–07 season O’Neal reached 25,000 career points,
becoming the 14th player in NBA history to accomplish that milestone.
However, it was the first season in O’Neal’s career that his scoring
average dropped below 20 points per game.
O’Neal experienced a rough start for the 2007–08 season, averaging
career lows in points, rebounds and blocks. His role in the offense
diminished, as he attempted only 10 field goals per game, versus his
career average of 17. In addition, O’Neal was plagued by fouls, and
during one stretch fouled out of five consecutive games. O’Neal’s streak
of 14 straight All-Star appearances ended that season. O’Neal again missed games due to injuries, and the Heat had a 15–game losing streak. According to O’Neal, Riley thought he was faking the injury. During a practice in February 2008, O’Neal got into an altercation with Riley over the coach ordering a tardy Jason Williams
to leave practice. The two argued face-to-face, with O’Neal poking
Riley in the chest and Riley slapping his finger away. Riley soon after
decided to trade O’Neal.
O’Neal said his relationship with Wade was not “all that good” by the
time he left Miami, but he did not express disappointment at Wade for
failing to stand up for him.
Phoenix Suns (2008–2009)
The Phoenix Suns acquired O’Neal from the league-worst, 9–37 Heat, in exchange for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks.
O’Neal made his Suns debut on February 20, 2008 against his former
Lakers team, scoring 15 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in the process.
The Lakers won, 130–124. O’Neal was upbeat in a post-game press
conference, stating: “I will take the blame for this loss because I
wasn’t in tune with the guys […] But give me four or five days to
really get in tune and I’ll get it.”
In 28 regular-season games, O’Neal averaged 12.9 points and 10.6 rebounds, good enough to make the playoffs. One of the reasons for the trade was to limit Tim Duncan in the event of a postseason matchup between the Suns and the San Antonio Spurs, especially after the Suns’ six-game elimination by the Spurs in the 2007 NBA Playoffs.
O’Neal and the Phoenix Suns did face the Spurs in the first round of
the playoffs, but they were once again eliminated, in five games. O’Neal
averaged 15.2 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game.
O’Neal preferred his new situation with the Suns over the Heat. “I
love playing for this coach and I love playing with these guys,” O’Neal
said. “We have professionals who know what to do. No one is asking me to
play with [his former Heat teammates] Chris Quinn or Ricky Davis.
I’m actually on a team again.” Riley felt O’Neal was wrong for
maligning his former teammates. O’Neal responded with an expletive
toward Riley, who he often referred to as the “great Pat Riley” while
playing for the Heat. O’Neal credited the Suns training staff with prolonging his career.
They connected his arthritic toe, which would not bend, to the
alteration of his jump that consequently was straining his leg. The
trainers had him concentrate on building his core strength, flexibility, and balance.
The 2008–09 season improved for O’Neal, who averaged 18 pts, 9
rebounds, and 1.6 blocks through the first half (41 games) of the
season, leading the Suns to a 23–18 record and 2nd place in their
division. He returned to the All-Star Game in 2009 and emerged as co-MVP along with ex-teammate Kobe Bryant.
On February 27, 2009, O’Neal scored 45 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, his 49th career 40-point game, beating the Toronto Raptors 133–113.
In a matchup against Orlando on March 3, 2009, O’Neal was outscored by Magic center Dwight Howard,
21–19. “I’m really too old to be trying to outscore 18-year-olds,”
O’Neal said, referring to the then 23-year-old Howard. “It’s not really
my role anymore.” O’Neal was double-teamed most of the night. “I like to
play people one-on-one. My whole career I had to play people
one-on-one. Never once had to double or ask for a double. But it’s
cool,” said O’Neal. During the game, O’Neal flopped against Howard.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy,
who had coached O’Neal with the Heat, was “very disappointed cause
[O’Neal] knows what it’s like. Let’s stand up and play like men, and I
think our guy did that tonight.”
O’Neal responded, “Flopping is playing like that your whole career. I
was trying to take the charge, trying to get a call. It probably was a
flop, but flopping is the wrong use of words. Flopping would describe
his coaching.” Mark Madsen,
a Lakers teammate of O’Neal’s for three years, found it amusing since
“everyone in the league tries to flop on Shaq and Shaq never flops
back.” In a 2006 interview in TIME,
O’Neal said if he were NBA commissioner, he would “Make a guy have to
beat a guy—not flop and get calls and be nice to the referees and kiss
On March 6, O’Neal talked about the upcoming game against the Rockets and Yao Ming.
“It’s not going to be man-on-man, so don’t even try that,” says O’Neal
with an incredulous laugh. “They’re going to double and triple me like
everybody else … I rarely get to play [Yao] one-on-one … But when I
play him (on defense), it’s just going to be me down there. So don’t try
to make it a Yao versus Shaq thing, when it’s Shaq versus four other
The 2009 NBA Playoffs was also the first time since O’Neal’s rookie season in 1992–93
that he did not participate in the playoffs. He was named as a member
of the All-NBA Third Team. The Suns notified O’Neal he might be traded
to cut costs.
Cleveland Cavaliers (2009–2010)
On June 25, 2009, O’Neal was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Sasha Pavlovic, Ben Wallace, $500,000 and a 2010 second round draft pick. Upon arriving in Cleveland, O’Neal said, “My motto is very simple: Win a Ring for the King,” referring to LeBron James. James was the leader of the team, and O’Neal deferred to him.
On Friday, February 25, 2010 O’Neal suffered a severe right thumb injury while attempting to go up for a shot against Glen Davis of the Boston Celtics. He had surgery on the thumb on March 1 and returned to play on April 17 in the first round playoff game against the Chicago Bulls.
O’Neal averaged career lows in almost every major statistical
category, taking on a much less significant role than in previous years.
His presence in the post was not as significant as in years past. After
the retirement of Lindsey Hunter on March 5, O’Neal became the NBA’s oldest active player. He returned to the starting line-up in time for the 2010 NBA Playoffs.
The Cavaliers swiftly defeated the Chicago Bulls in the first round,
yet Cleveland became the first team in NBA history to miss the NBA Finals
after laying claim to the NBA’s top playoff seed for two consecutive
seasons. On May 13, the Cavaliers were eliminated from the playoffs,
losing to the Boston Celtics 4–2 in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Boston Celtics (2010–2011)
Upon hearing Bryant comment that he had more rings than O’Neal, Wyc Grousbeck, principal owner of the Celtics, saw an opportunity to acquire O’Neal. Celtics coach Doc Rivers
agreed to the signing on the condition that O’Neal would not receive
preferential treatment nor could he cause any locker room problems like
in Los Angeles or Miami. On August 4, 2010, the Celtics announced that they had signed O’Neal. The contract was for two years at the veteran minimum salary for a total contract value of $2.8 million. O’Neal wanted the larger mid-level exception contract, but the Celtics chose instead to give it to Jermaine O’Neal. The Atlanta Hawks and the Dallas Mavericks also expressed interest but had stalled on O’Neal’s salary demands. He was introduced by the Celtics on August 10, 2010, and chose the number 36.
O’Neal said he didn’t “compete with little guys who run around
dominating the ball, throwing up 30 shots a night—like D–Wade, Kobe.”
O’Neal added that he was only competing against Duncan: “If Tim Duncan
gets five rings, then that gives some writer the chance to say ‘Duncan
is the best,’ and I can’t have that.”
Publicly, he insisted he did not care whether he started or substituted
for the Celtics, but expected to be part of the second unit. Privately, he wanted to start, but kept it to himself. O’Neal missed games throughout the season due to an assortment of ailments to his right leg including knee, calf, hip, and Achilles injuries. The Celtics traded away center Kendrick Perkins
in February partially due to the expectation that O’Neal would return
to fill Perkins’ role. The Celtics were 33–10 in games Perkins had
missed during the year due to injury, and they were 19–3 in games that O’Neal played over 20 minutes. After requesting a cortisone
shot, O’Neal returned April 3 after missing 27 games due to his
Achilles; he played only five minutes due to a strained right calf. It was the last regular season game he would play that year. O’Neal missed the first round of the 2011 playoffs.
He insisted on more cortisone shots and returned in the second round,
but he was limited to 12 minutes in two games as the Heat eliminated the
Celtics from the playoffs.
On June 1, 2011, O’Neal announced his retirement via social media.
On a short tape on Twitter, O’Neal tweeted, “We did it. Nineteen years,
baby. I want to thank you very much. That’s why I’m telling you first.
I’m about to retire. Love you. Talk to you soon.” On June 3, 2011,
O’Neal held a press conference at his home in Orlando to officially
announce his retirement.
While at LSU, O’Neal was considered for the Dream Team to fill the college spot, but it eventually went to future teammate Christian Laettner. His international career began in the 1994 FIBA World Championship in which he was named MVP of the Tournament. While he led Dream Team II
to the gold medal with an 8–0 record, O’Neal averaged 18 points and 8.5
rebounds and recorded two double-doubles. In four games, he scored more
than 20 points. Before 2010, he was the last active American player to
have a gold from the FIBA World Championships.
He was one of two players (the other being Reggie Miller) from the 1994 roster to be also named to the Dream Team III. Due to more star-power, he rotated with Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson
and started 3 games. He averaged 9.3 points and 5.3 points with 8 total
blocks. Again, a perfect 8–0 record landed him another gold medal at
the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. O’Neal was upset that coach Lenny Wilkens
played Robinson more minutes in the final game; Wilkins previously
explained to O’Neal that it would probably be Robinson last Olympics.
After his 1996 experience, he declined to play in international competition. He was angered by being overlooked for the FIBA Americas Championship 1999 squad, saying it was a “lack of respect”. He forgo an opportunity to participate in the 2000 Olympics, explaining that two gold medals were enough. Shaq also chose not to play in the 2002 FIBA World Championship. He rejected an offer to play in the 2004 Olympics, and although he was initially interested in being named for 2006–2008 US preliminary roster, he eventually declined the invitation.
O’Neal established himself as an overpowering low post presence,
putting up career averages of 23.7 points on .582 field goal accuracy,
10.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game (as of April 2011).
At 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m), 325 lb (147 kg; 23.2 st) and U.S. shoe size 23, he became famous for his physical stature. His physical frame gave him a power advantage over most opponents.
O’Neal’s “drop step“,
(called the “Black Tornado” by O’Neal) in which he posted up a
defender, turned around and, using his elbows for leverage, powered past
him for a very high-percentage slam dunk, proved an effective offensive weapon. In addition, O’Neal frequently used a right-handed jump hook
shot to score near the basket. The ability to dunk contributed to his
career field goal accuracy of .582, the second highest field goal
percentage of all time. He led the NBA in field goal percentage 10 times, breaking Wilt Chamberlain‘s record of nine.
Opposing teams often used up many fouls on O’Neal, reducing the
playing time of their own big men. O’Neal’s imposing physical presence
inside the paint caused dramatic changes in many teams’ offensive and
O’Neal’s primary weakness was his free-throw shooting, with a career
average of 52.7%. He once missed all 11 free throws in a game against
the Seattle SuperSonics on December 8, 2000, a record. O’Neal believes his free throw woes were a mental issue, as he often shot 80 percent in practice. In hope of exploiting O’Neal’s poor foul shooting, opponents often committed intentional fouls against him, a tactic known as “Hack-a-Shaq“. O’Neal was the third-ranked player all-time in free throws taken,
having attempted 11,252 free-throws in 1,207 games up to and including
the 2010–11 season. On December 25, 2008, O’Neal missed his 5,000th free
throw, becoming the second player in NBA history to do so, along with
On his own half of the hardwood, O’Neal was a capable defender, named
three times to the All-NBA Second Defensive Team. His presence
intimidated opposing players shooting near the basket, and he averaged
2.3 blocked shots per game over the course of his career.
Phil Jackson believed O’Neal underachieved in his career, saying he
“could and should have been the MVP player for 10 consecutive seasons.” In early June 2011, the Los Angeles Lakers announced plans to retire Shaq’s number, 34, possibly before he is eligible for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
O’Neal called himself “The Big Aristotle and Hobo Master” for his
composure and insights during interviews. Journalists and others gave
O’Neal several nicknames including “Shaq”, “The Diesel“, “Shaq Fu“, “The Big Daddy”, “Superman“, “The Big Agave“, “The Big Cactus”, “The Big Shaqtus”, “The Big Galactus“, “Wilt Chamberneezy“, “The Big Baryshnikov“, “The Real Deal”, “Dr. Shaq” (after earning his MBA), “The Big Shamrock“, “The Big Leprechaun“, “Shaqovic”, and “The Big Conductor”. Although he was a favorite interview of the press, O’Neal was sensitive and often went weeks without speaking.
When he did not want to speak with the press, he employed an interview
technique where, sitting in front of his cubicle, he would murmur in his
low pitched voice.
During the 2000 Screen Actors Guild strike, O’Neal performed in a commercial for Disney. O’Neal was fined by the union for crossing the picket line.
O’Neal’s humorous and sometimes incendiary comments fueled the Los Angeles Lakers‘ long standing rivalry with the Sacramento Kings; O’Neal frequently referred to the Sacramento team as the “Queens.” During the 2002 victory parade, O’Neal declared that Sacramento would never be the capital of California, after the Lakers beat the Kings in a tough seven game series enroute to its third championship with O’Neal.
He also received media flak for mocking Chinese people when interviewed about newcomer center Yao Ming. O’Neal told a reporter, “you tell Yao Ming, ching chong yang, wah, ah so.”
O’Neal later said it was locker-room humor and he meant no offense. Yao
believed that O’Neal was joking, but he said a lot of Asians wouldn’t
see the humor. Yao joked, “Chinese is hard to learn. I had trouble with it when I was little.”
During the 2005 NBA playoffs, O’Neal compared his poor play to Erick Dampier, a Dallas Mavericks
center who had failed to score a single point in one of their recent
games. The quip inspired countless citations and references by
announcers during those playoffs, though Dampier himself offered little
response to the insult. The two would meet in the 2006 NBA Finals.
O’Neal was very vocal with the media, often jabs at former Laker
teammate Kobe Bryant. In the summer of 2005, when asked about Kobe, he
responded, “I’m sorry, who?” and continued to pretend that he did not
know who Kobe was until well into the 2005–2006 season.
O’Neal also appeared on television on Saturday Night Live and in 2007 hosted Shaq’s Big Challenge, a reality show on ABC where he challenged Florida kids to lose weight and stay in shape.
When the Lakers faced the Heat on January 16, 2006, O’Neal and Kobe
Bryant made headlines by engaging in handshakes and hugs before the
game, an event that was believed to signify the end of the so-called “Bryant–O’Neal feud” that had festered since the center left Los Angeles. O’Neal was quoted as saying that he accepted the advice of NBA legend Bill Russell to make peace with Bryant. However, on June 22, 2008, O’Neal freestyled
a diss rap about Bryant in a New York club. While rapping, O’Neal
blamed Kobe for his divorce from his wife Shaunie and claims to have
received a vasectomy,
as part of a rhyme. He also taunted Bryant for not being able to win a
championship without him. O’Neal led the audience to mockingly chant
several times “Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes.”
O’Neal justified his act by saying “I was freestyling. That’s all. It
was all done in fun. Nothing serious whatsoever. That is what MCs do.
They freestyle when called upon. I’m totally cool with Kobe. No issue at
all.” Although even other exponents of hip hop, such as Snoop Dogg, Nas and Cory Gunz, agreed with O’Neal, Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio
expressed his intention to relieve O’Neal of his Maricopa County
sheriff posse badge, due to “use of a racially derogatory word and other
foul language”. The racial quote from his song was “it’s like a white
boy trying to be more nigga than me.”
O’Neal left LSU for the NBA after three years. However, he promised
his mother he would eventually return to his studies and complete his bachelor’s degree. He fulfilled that promise in 2000, earning his bachelor of arts in general studies. Coach Phil Jackson
let O’Neal miss a home game so he could attend graduation. At the
ceremony, he told the crowd “now I can go and get a real job”.
Subsequently, O’Neal earned an MBA online through the University of Phoenix
in 2005. In reference to his completion of his MBA degree, he stated:
“It’s just something to have on my resume for when I go back into
reality. Someday I might have to put down a basketball and have a
regular 9-to-5 like everybody else.”
Toward the end of his playing career, he began work on an Ed.D. in Human Resource Development at Barry University. His doctoral capstone topic was “The Duality of Humor and Aggression in Leadership Styles”. O’Neal received his degree in 2012. O’Neal told a reporter for ABC News that he plans to further his education still by attending law school.
O’Neal maintained a high level of interest in the workings of police
departments and became personally involved in law enforcement. O’Neal
went through the Los Angeles County Sheriff‘s Reserve Academy and became a reserve officer with the Los Angeles Port Police. He appeared in a commercial for ESPN in Miami Police garb climbing a tree to rescue LSU‘s costumed mascot Mike the Tiger.
On March 2, 2005, O’Neal was given an honorary U.S. Deputy Marshal title and named the spokesman for the Safe Surfin’ Foundation; he served an honorary role on the task force of the same name, which tracks down sexual predators who target children on the Internet.
Upon his trade to Miami, O’Neal began training to become a Miami Beach
reserve officer. On December 8, 2005, he was sworn in, but elected for a
private ceremony to avoid distracting attention from the other
officers. He assumed a $1 per year salary in this capacity. Shortly thereafter, in Miami, O’Neal witnessed a hate crime (assaulting a man while calling out homophobic slurs) and called Miami-Dade police, describing the suspect and helping police, over his cell phone, track the offender. O’Neal’s actions resulted in the arrest of two suspects on charges of aggravated battery, assault, and a hate crime.
Beginning in 1993 O’Neal began to compose rap music. He released five studio albums and 1 compilation album. Although his rapping abilities were criticized at the outset, one critic credited him with “progressing as a rapper in small steps, not leaps and bounds“. His 1993 debut album, Shaq Diesel, received platinum certification from the RIAA. O’Neal was featured alongside Michael Jackson as a guest rapper on “2 Bad,” a song from Jackson’s 1995 album HIStory.
Starting with Blue Chips and Kazaam, O’Neal appeared in movies that were panned by critics.
O’Neal appeared as himself on an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, bedridden after Larry David‘s character accidentally tripped him while stretching, and in two episodes each of My Wife and Kids and The Parkers. O’Neal appeared in the 311 music video for the hit single “You Wouldn’t Believe” in 2001, in P. Diddy’s video for “Bad Boys 4 Life”,
the video for Aaron Carter‘s “That’s How I Beat Shaq,” and the video for Owl City‘s Vanilla Twilight. O’Neal appeared in the movie CB4 in a small “interviewing” scene. O’Neal played John Henry Irons/Steel in a movie based on the popular superhero Steel. O’Neal appeared in a SportsCenter commercial dressed in his Miami police uniform, rescuing Mike the Tiger from a tree. O’Neal was also a character in the movie Blue Chips with Nick Nolte. O’Neal reportedly wanted a role in the film X2 (the second in the X-Men film series), but was ignored by the filmmakers.
He voiced animated versions of himself on several occasions, including the animated series Static Shock (“Static Shaq” episode) and in the Johnny Bravo (episode “Back on Shaq”). Because he is a fan of The Man of Steel, Static Shock creators had hoped to have O’Neal and Superman meet, but O’Neal was not located in time to do the episode.
O’Neal was featured on the covers of video games NBA Live 96, NBA 2K6, NBA 2K7, NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC, NBA Hoopz, and NBA Inside Drive 2004. O’Neal appeared in the arcade version of NBA Jam (1993), NBA Jam (2003) and NBA Live 2004 as a current player and as a 1990s All-Star. O’Neal starred in Shaq Fu, a fighting game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis. O’Neal also appeared in Backyard Basketball in 2004, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 as a playable boxer, and as an unlockable character in Delta Force: Black Hawk Down. O’Neal was also an unlockable character in UFC Undisputed 2010.
O’Neal and his mother Lucille Harrison were featured in the documentary film Apple Pie, which aired on ESPN. O’Neal had a 2005 reality series on ESPN, Shaquille, and hosted a series called Shaq’s Big Challenge on ABC appearing with Tyler Florence and long time trainer and personal physician Carlon Colker among others.
O’Neal appeared on NBA Ballers and NBA Ballers: Phenom, in the 2002 Discovery Channel special Motorcycle Mania 2 requesting an exceptionally large bike to fit his large size famed custom motorcycle builder Jesse James, in the first Idol Gives Back in 2007, on an episode of Fear Factor, and on an episode of MTV’s Jackass, where he was lifted off the ground on Wee Man‘s back. O’Neal was a wrestling fan and made appearances at many WWE events.
O’Neal was pranked on the MTV show Punk’d when a crew member accused him of stealing his parking space. After O’Neal and his wife went into a restaurant, Ashton Kutcher‘s
crew members let the air out of O’Neal’s tires. O’Neal and the crew
member then got into an altercation and after Kutcher told O’Neal he had
been Punk’d, O’Neal made an obscene gesture at the camera.
O’Neal starred in a reality show called Shaq Vs. which premiered on August 18, 2009, on ABC. The show featured O’Neal competing against other athletes at their own sports.
On the July 27 episode of WWE Raw, O’Neal was the special guest host and put himself as the special ringside enforcer in a match involving Cryme Tyme and the Unified WWE Tag Team Champions Chris Jericho and The Big Show.
After the match, O’Neal and Big Show had a confrontation which lead to
O’Neal shoulder blocking The Big Show. He even became a nominee for the
Raw Guest Host of the Year during the 2009 Slammy Awards, losing to Bob Barker.
On July 14, 2011, O’Neal announced that he would join Turner Network Television (TNT) as an analyst on its NBA basketball games, joining Ernie Johnson, Kenny Smith, and Charles Barkley.
Mixed martial arts
O’Neal began training in mixed martial arts (MMA) in 2000. At Jonathan Burke’s Gracie Gym, he trained in boxing, jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai and wrestling. At the gym, he used the nickname Diesel. O’Neal challenged kickboxer and mixed martial artist Choi Hong-man
to a mixed martial arts rules bout in a YouTube video posted on June
17, 2009. Hong-man replied to an email asking him if he would like to
fight O’Neal saying “Yes, if there is a chance.” Hong-man also responded
to a question asking if O’Neal had a chance of winning with a simple
“No.” On August 28, 2010 at UFC 118 in Boston, O’Neal reiterated his desire to fight Choi in an interview.
O’Neal was looking to expand his business ventures with real-estate development projects aimed at assisting Orlando homeowners facing foreclosure. His plans involved buying the mortgages
of those who had fallen into foreclosure and then selling the homes
back to them under more affordable terms. He would make a small profit
in return, but wanted to make an investment in Orlando and help out
O’Neal is on the advisory board for Tout Industries, a social video service startup company based in San Francisco. He received the position in return for breaking news of his NBA retirement on the service.
O’Neal is a Muslim.
He married Shaunie Nelson on December 26, 2002. The couple have four
children (Shareef, Amirah, Shaqir, and Me’arah), and Nelson has one son
from a previous relationship (Myles). O’Neal also has a daughter from a
previous relationship (Taahirah).
|Shaq and Shaunie Nelson|
|Shaq and Nikki Alexander|
On September 4, 2007, O’Neal filed for divorce from Shaunie in a
Miami-Dade Circuit court. Shaunie later said that the couple had gotten
back together and that the divorce was withdrawn. However, on November
10, 2009, Shaunie filed an intent to divorce, citing irreconcilable
differences. In summer 2010, O’Neal began dating reality TV star Nikki “Hoopz” Alexander. The couple resided at O’Neal’s home in Sudbury, Massachusetts.
O’Neal is a 2009 inductee of the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
O’Neal is also a Freemason. On June 11, 2011 he was made a Master Mason
at sight by Most Worshipful Grand Master Hon. Frederick B. Summers of
the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts F&AM.
In his mansion in Orlando, Florida, O’Neal built a homemade movie theater with two rows of five retractable chairs, Superman
lights, another Superman symbol on the floor, a big screen, another
Superman symbol on his blanket, and 5.1 surround sound. O’Neal also
created an indoor basketball court.
When Hall of Fame center George Mikan died in June of 2005, O’Neal extended an offer to his family to pay all of the funeral expenses, which they accepted.
NBA career statistics
A list of O’Neal’s career statistics:
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field-goal percentage||3P%||3-point field-goal percentage||FT%||Free-throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
- Shaq Diesel (1993)
- Shaq Fu: Da Return (1994)
- You Can’t Stop the Reign (1996)
- Respect (1998)
- Shaquille O’Neal Presents His Superfriends, Vol. 1 (Unreleased)
- Blue Chips (1994)
- Kazaam (1996)
- Good Burger (1997)
- Steel (1997) (nominated for Razzie Award for Worst Actor)
- He Got Game (1998)
- A Great Day in Hip Hop (1998)
- The Wash (2001)
- Freddy Got Fingered (2001)
- After the Sunset (2004)
- Scary Movie 4 (2006)
- The House Bunny (2008)
- Jack and Jill (2011)
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