Shaquille O’Neal’s career has been a journey: the Orlando Magic years with Penny Hardaway, the dynasty with Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson with the Los Angeles Lakers and his bond in South Beach with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.
A three-time NBA Champion, Shaq surely cemented a legacy.
It takes a village to raise a child and an even bigger village to help maintain an athlete’s success once they have arrived.
A lot of credit should go to O’Neal’s late step-father Philip A. Harrison and his mother Lucille O’Neal for keeping structure around Shaq every step of the way.
After three years as a student athlete at LSU, Shaq declared for the 1992 NBA Draft.
Selected first overall by the Orlando Magic, although NBA-ready, Shaq promised his parents and college coach, Dale Brown, that he would finish his education.
He kept his word.
In 2000, while a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal made good on that promise by graduating from LSU. “We had a deal, you do this now and go back to school later,” his mother Lucille O’Neal, told me on the Scoop B Radio Podcast.
“He needed to finish his college education; however, when the opportunity presented itself for him to go into the NBA, we didn’t want him to miss an opportunity when it was presented to him.”
Shaq’s path to his undergraduate degree included online classes and correspondence with professors through both mail and email. He continued his education by earning his PH.D from Barry University with his doctoral capstone topic being The Duality of Humor and Aggression in Leadership Styles.
But Diesel didn’t stop there and turned his attention to his mother, helping her fulfill her dream of graduating from college as she had pushed him to achieve his. So in 2003, Momma O’Neal, with the help of her son, earned her BA in Business Admin from Bethune-Cookman. And like her son, she furthered her education in 2005 by earning her MA in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix.
“It took 30 years, but I never lost thirst for learning,” she said.
“I promised him that I wouldn’t waste his money and he said that as long as I got good grades, he would continue to pay my tuition.”
The bond between Mother and Son in the O’Neal household extends beyond blood and demonstrates that education can be obtained no matter the age or life situation.