Whether you love Shaquille O’Neal (Shaq) as much as the big corporations who profit millions off of his endorsement, or you hate him as much as Kobe Bryant did as his L.A. Lakers teammate, there is no denying that he was one of the most dominant players in NBA history.
The accolades that Shaq received during his playing career are almost as diverse as the list of nicknames bestowed upon him. A four-time NBA champion, “The Big Aristotle” was also one of the league’s most decorated personalities. Shaq is often remembered for his dominant play on the court, but it is off the court where his goofy personality shone brightest. Granted, he could humor teammates and fans alike with his on-court antics, however it was beyond the basketball court where his light-hearted and incredible character led him to create an endless number of stories.
The big man, who played for nineteen years in the NBA, had a big heart and an even bigger character. His restless spirit led – and continues to lead – him to pursue his ascending passions. As many fields as Shaq experiments with, he has never let one detract from the other; whatever endeavor he undertakes, Shaq always gives it his full effort, leaving it all on the court, as it were. Always the multitasked - from playing basketball, to acting, to attending school, to being a Master of Ceremonies (MC) behind the mic - Shaq has seemingly done it all. This list will examine fifteen of the craziest stories to ever emerge concerning Shaq, most of which originated off of the basketball court.
29 15. The Educated “Aristotle”
Due to the level of commitment required to play in a professional sporting league, it is often true that the athletes themselves have received sub-optimal education. However, there are those within the professional sporting realm who persevere through the ups and downs of being an athlete in order to pursue higher educational achievements. Shaquille O’Neal was certainly one of these athletes. Playing in college at LSU and being one of the nation’s top basketball prospects did not offer Shaq a lot of time to study. In fact, he left LSU after three years – before he completed his bachelor’s degree – to play in the NBA. However, in 2000 he returned to his studies where he completed the necessary requirements to graduate with his B.A. and, upon graduation, was pardoned from an L.A. Laker home game by his coach at the time (Phil Jackson) to attend the ceremony. Later, while still playing in the league, O’Neal also obtained an MBA online from the University of Phoenix indicating that he was interested in pursuing a higher level of education. More recently, Shaq worked on an Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) in Human Resource Development at Barry University, earning his degree in 2012 based off his doctoral topic “The Duality and Humor and Aggression in Leadership Styles.” Like the ancient Greek philosopher who his nickname “The Big Aristotle” was coined after, Shaq seems to share an interest in education. For all of his on-court achievements, Dr. Shaquille O’Neal has just as many educational accolades.
27 14. Beating Up Bullies
When Shaq was younger he was one of the biggest kids walking around town, which brought on lots of teasing and name-calling from his peers. As Shaq’s father was in the military, they moved around quite a bit, forcing O’Neal to attend a variety of new schools. Bullying is horrible to begin with, but it can be a different beast to a new kid at a new school. That’s why, as Shaq recalls, he would locate the biggest – or toughest – kid at each of his new schools and would proceed to beat them up. This was Shaq’s way of sending a message to the other kids of the school – especially the bullies – that he was not to be made fun of. Although not the most diplomatic of methods, it seemed to work for Shaq as a young boy trying to navigate the pre-pubescent world, and it is certainly a trait which he carried with him into adulthood as he himself became a bully on the courts of the NBA.
25 13. At The Movies
It is always cool to watch professional athletes undertake cameos in motion pictures or star in an episode of a particular TV show. However, when a sports icon as famous as Shaq stars in a movie, it draws interest from both the sporting world and the audience(s) outside of it. The two largest film projects he worked on were the movies Blue Chips and Kazaam. In Blue Chips, O’Neal plays a college basketball star who is receiving illegal money from other schools as well as from college boosters. In Kazaam, Shaq plays a rapping genie attempting to help a young boy rekindle his relationship with his father. Although both performances were not Oscar worthy, Shaq tried to tackle a large issue in Blue Chips – corrupted collegiate athletics – and managed to garner a few laughs in Kazaam. It should also be noted that Shaq made several cameos including in the movies Jack and Jill, Grown Ups 2, and Scary Movie 4.
23 12. His Nicknames
This is not necessarily a story about Shaq, but rather a story in itself. The amount of nicknames given to Shaq, either by himself or by others throughout his playing and broadcasting career, is endless. It doesn’t quite matter that this isn’t a story per se; each nickname in and of itself was inspired by a great Shaq story. Here they are in all of their glory: Shaq; Superman; The Big Aristotle; The Big Daddy; The Big Shaqtus, The Big Cactus; The Big Banana; MayorMcShaq; The Real Deal; The Big Shamrock; Shaq Daddy; Manny Shaq-iaou; Hobo Master; The Big eQuotatious; The Big Galactus; The Big Field General; Shaq Fu; Diesel; The Big Conductor; The Big IPO; Wilt Chamberneezy; Dr. Shaq; Shaqovic; The Big Twitterer; Witness Protection; L.C.L.; and The Big Cordially. Although definitely not an exhaustive list of all of the nicknames used to refer to Shaq, these are some of the very best.
21 11. Shaq vs. Big Show At WrestleMania
For a man with such tremendous size and who enjoyed beating people up earlier in his life, it is no wonder that Shaq was a fan of professional wrestling. Shaq’s fandom has led him to participate in several wrestling events over the years. His first appearance was presenting the title belt to the winner of the WCW World Heavyweight Championship match between Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan. Much later, he was a guest host of WWE’s Monday Night Raw, where he got into his first altercation with the wrestler ‘Big Show’. Recently, Shaq actually took part in his first ever match at WrestleMania 32 during Andre the Giant’s Memorial Battle Royal. During the show, Shaq had yet another altercation with Big Show and was quoted afterwards as challenging Big Show to a future match. It is therefore unlikely that Shaq’s most recent venture into the ring was to be his last.
19 10. Practice In The Buff
According to several former coaches, Shaq would frequently try to lighten the mood in the locker room by stripping down to nothing while engaging in humorous pranks, such as tackling teammates and coaching staff. One account in particular is quite entertaining. According to Phil Jackson, who was Shaq’s coach during his time with the Los Angeles Lakers, there was one practice where O’Neal showed up in literally nothing except for his sneakers. It is hard to imagine a man who was over 7 feet tall and weighed more than 300 pounds walking around with nothing but shoes on, but even harder still to try and picture him playing basketball in the nude. However difficult it may be to imagine, these incidents were apparently a common occurrence with Shaq who, more than anyone in the locker room, knew how to use his goofy charm to the amusement of his teammates, fans, and sometimes even opponents.
17 9. Officer Shaq
Throughout his playing career, Shaq became very involved with law enforcement – in a good way – and actually went through the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Reserve Academy in order to become an officer with the LA Port Police. In 2005, Shaq was given an honorary U.S. Deputy Marshal title and served as the spokesperson for the Safe Surfin’ Foundation which is a task force devoted to tracking down sexual predators targeting children on the internet. Upon Shaq’s trade to the Miami Heat, he trained to become a Miami Beach reserve officer and, when he was sworn in, chose a private ceremony so as to not draw any attention away from the other officers. Later on, Shaq was a witness to a hate crime and was able to help Miami police capture the perpetrators who were charged with assault, aggravated battery, and with a hate crime. More recently, Shaq participated in the raid of a residential home in Virginia alongside S.W.A.T. officials and was dubbed the honorary deputy of the task force. Finally, his actions after the LA Lakers championship in 2000 are a testament to his appreciation of law enforcement. In the downtown celebration after the victory, two police cars were set on fire by fans and the next day, Shaq sent a check to the L.A.P.D. to replace the torched patrol car.
15 8. “Shaq-Fu’s” Studio Rap Albums
Shaq had only been in the NBA for one season when he began pursuing another passion of his – rapping. Choosing the MC name ‘Shaq-Fu’, he went on to produce five studio rap albums and one compilation album, while being featured on a number of other artists’ songs. Far from being a hobby, Shaq-Fu was in fact a professional rapper who was signed under contract to four different recording labels during his musical career, including Interscope Records, the same label of rappers such as Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre, and Eminem. In 1993, Shaq’s debut album, which was aptly named Shaq Diesel, received official platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America, meaning that he sold over 1,000,000 copies of the album. Shaq’s presence behind the mic was almost as big as his presence on the court as he was chosen by Michael Jackson to be a guest rapper on Jackson’s song “2 Bad.”
13 7. Size 22 Shoes
Shaq wore the biggest pair of sneakers in recorded NBA history at size 22! Although he shares the record with several other former NBA players, no one has ever worn size 23 shoes in the league. Not only did he have some of the biggest feet to ever play in the NBA, Shaq was also one of the tallest and heaviest men to ever hit the hardcourt, being listed at 7 ft 1 in (2.16 m) tall and 325 pounds! Shaq was both a figurative and literal giant on the court, whose massive feet enabled him to posterize some of the greatest NBA players of all time. Shaq’s shoes had to be customized not only for his extremely long feet, but also to cushion the entire weight of the big man. The average shoe size for American men is 10.5, meaning that Shaq’s shoe was over twice the length of the median male foot size.
11 6. Recruited Penny Hardaway While Filming A Movie
In 1992, Shaq was cast in the movie Blue Chips about a pair of collegiate basketball players attempting to balance the life of academics and college sports. Former Orlando Magic teammate Penny Hardaway was also cast for the movie. Shaq was quoted as saying that if Hardaway had not been in the movie with him, he would have never played for the Magic. In other words, Shaq recruited Hardaway while on set for Blue Chips by serving Orlando an ultimatum: get Hardaway, or I will look to play for another team. Of course, the Magic listened to the big man who, for all his goofiness, was correct about Hardaway who turned out to be an incredibly talented player. On the set of Blue Chips, the two played real basketball in between scenes and it was Hardaway’s vision for the passing lanes that caught Shaq’s attention. Upon the realization that the two had immediate chemistry together, Shaq became vocal about his desire to play with Hardaway. He eventually got his wish as the Magic traded away their first overall selection in the 1993 NBA draft, Chris Webber, to acquire Hardaway.
9 5. “Shaq-Kobe Feud”
Shaq’s feud with former teammate Kobe Bryant is one of the most infamous and well-documented intra-team controversies in the history of professional sports, let alone the history of the NBA. The two all-stars are undoubtedly two of the most dominant players to ever play in the NBA. They played together on the L.A. Lakers from 1996-2004, before Shaq was traded to the Miami Heat as a result of locker room tension. The feud started almost immediately after the two players began to play with one another in 1996, and it is likely a result of the divergent personalities of the two men; Shaq’s demeanor being centered around humor and often times indifference, while Kobe’s was extremely serious and strictly business. Whatever the true origins of the feud were, there was certainly no cure as it continued well into the new millennium, even after winning three consecutive NBA championships together! All of this tension reportedly led to several fights during Laker practices with Kobe apparently punching Shaq on a number of occasions. It has also been reported that Shaq once said that he “would murder” Kobe. The mutual dislike did not end once they were no longer teammates however, as both men wouldn’t even acknowledge the other in the media for a brief period of time.
7 4. Spent His First $1 million in 45 minutes
When Shaq signed his first NBA contract with the Orlando Magic, he quickly spent $1 million of it in under an hour. Most people don’t even make $1 million in their entire lifetimes, let alone blow it in half an hour! However, from Shaq’s point of view, like a lot of NBA players he grew up in relative poverty, and saw his mother and father working extremely hard to support their son. So, rather than spending the first $1 million he ever made on a car, house, or clothes for himself, Shaq spent it on his parents. He ensured that they were comfortable and moved them to a nice neighborhood while allowing them to quit their jobs. This may seem like a risky endeavor, coming from a young 20 year old. However, Shaq went on to educate himself in business and finance to ensure that he learned how to manage his money while avoiding bankruptcy – a trend that affects a disproportionately high number of retired professional athletes.
5 3. Showed Up To Work In His Underwear
Only Shaq could show up to work, do his job in his underwear and not get fired. That’s exactly what he did this past year. After losing a bet to Isiah Thomas that Dwight Howard would drop a double-double in a game, Shaq had to uphold his end of the bet and go into work without any pants on. As a broadcaster for TNT, that meant Shaq had to go on camera in front of a national U.S. audience in nothing but his skivvies. In other words, O’Neal was nearly nude in front of millions of people on live TV. That takes some… er, courage. Not only did he go on live TV, but his coworkers posted videos of the spectacle on Twitter and Instagram after the segment had finished. All that can really be said about this story is that hopefully the air conditioning wasn’t on too high during the segment.
3 2. Shaq’s Financial Portfolio
After hearing about all of the education that Shaq received, it isn’t difficult to believe that he is fiscally responsible. However, you might not believe the number of businesses Shaq is involved with and just how diverse his financial portfolio is. On top of the money that Shaq made from his NBA salary and the money that he is currently earning working as a TNT broadcaster, Shaq also makes a ridiculous amount of money in endorsements. Shaq makes a total of $22 million a year in endorsement deals with a number of companies including with Icy Hot – remember those commercials? – Arizona Crème Soda, Buick, Gold Bond, and Zales, among others. Moreover, Shaq is the joint owner of 155 Five Guys Burgers restaurants, 150 car washes, 40 fitness centers, 17 Auntie Annie’s Pretzels restaurants, a movie theater, a shopping center, and a handful of Las Vegas nightclubs. One can only imagine the level of return on those investments. With such diversity and long-standing relations with large corporations, Shaq’s portfolio might even earn a thumbs-up from Donald Trump himself.
1 1. He Should Have Been With Biggie Smalls The Night He Was Murdered
Who knows what might have been different today if Shaq had been with the rapper Biggie Smalls (a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.) on the fateful night he was gunned down. Perhaps Biggie Smalls might still be alive, or perhaps we would be living in a world without Shaq. Retrospective predictions aside, it is almost unfathomable to think that Shaq should have been with Biggie that night. Being a rapper himself in the mid-1990s, Shaq was immersed in the hip-hop world and soon made friends with Christopher Wallace (Biggie’s real name). The two even produced a song together, “Can’t Stop the Reign,” which was featured on Shaq’s album of the same name. The night that Biggie was killed, he had invited Shaq to attend an after party which Shaq was on his way to before his security detail was denied entry to the party. Thereafter, Shaq returned home, while Biggie made his way to the party, only to be stopped in the streets and shot to death by an unknown assailant. A friend of Biggie’s, who was in the car when the rapper was shot, believes that, had Shaq attended the party with Wallace, the incident would never have taken place due to much higher levels of security.
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