Less than a week before the 2022 NBA Draft, the Miami Heat invited the son of one of their greatest former players to workout with the team on Thursday, June 15, Shareef O’Neal, per NBC Sports’ Chase Hughes. The NBA prospect’s father is none other than than Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal.
Shaq, 50, played for the Heat between 2004 and 2008 and helped the franchise take home the NBA Championship in 2006. Now, the 15-time All-Star, who was selected as the No.1 overall pick in 1992, will wait and see where his 22-year-old son lands when the NBA Draft kicks off on Thursday, June 23.
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O’Neal started out his basketball career at UCLA before transferring to LSU, his father’s alma mater, in 2020. While his father was a 7-foot-1 center, O’Neal is a 6-foot-10 forward. Even though O’Neal is not expected to get drafted in the first round, and the second round is considered “a longshot,” per Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman tweeted, “which could lead to summer-league decisions.”
In his two seasons with the LSU Tigers, O’Neal appeared in 24 games where he averaged 2.8 points and 3.1 rebounds in 11.4 minutes per game, as reported by The Sporting News.
While being the son of a four-time NBA Champion has its benefits, it’s also a heavy burden when it comes to inevitable comparisons. During Shaq’s three seasons at LSU, the former AP Player of the Year averaged 21.6 points, 13.5 rebounds, 4.6 blocks, 1.7 assists, and 1.2 steals per game.
The LSU redshift junior officially elected to forego his college eligibility to enter the 2022 NBA Draft, as first reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania on June 6. If O’Neal’s name doesn’t get called, it seems highly likely he’ll get signed as an undrafted free agent, and could be a perfect fit the Heat’s highly successful development program.
O’Neal Is Also Attending Workouts With the Washington Wizards, Los Angeles Lakers & More
O’Neal, who attended a pre-draft workout with the Washington Wizards after spending time in Miami, has also visited with the Milwaukee Bucks and is scheduled to work out with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, and another one of his father’s former teams, the Los Angeles Lakers.
However, O’Neal is trying to take things one day at a time. “Today, I’m focused on the Wizards,” he told Hughes on Friday, June 17. “I’m not worried about any other workouts right now. When I get to L.A., I’ll be focused on the Lakers. It’s going to be fun playing in the gym that my dad won championships in.”
“I basically grew up in that arena,” O’Neal continued. “I was born, then my dad and Kobe [Bryant] won [championships]. Kobe was like a mentor to me. Obviously, then my dad. I’ve been around that gym since I was born, so I know that place like the back of my hand.”
While the Lakers don’t have a first-round pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the team’s general manager and vice president, Rob Pelinka, announced their plan on buying into the second round earlier this month.
The Heat have the No. 27 overall pick, but they do not have a second-round pick. Their No. 56 pick is held by the Cavaliers.
O’Neal Underwent Open-Heart Surgery in 2018
While having an NBA career almost seems inevitable when one of the best basketball players of all time is your father, O’Neal is simply grateful to have the opportunity to get drafted. In 2018, the UCLA medical staff detected an irregularity in the freshman’s heart, which required open-heart surgery to fix.
Surviving such a risky operation gave O’Neal a whole new outlook on life. While the NBA prospect would need to pack over 80 pounds to have the famous mountain-like build of his father, Shaq weighed 325 pounds during his tenure with the Heat, O’Neal is just happy to be playing ball.
“I didn’t think this would ever happen, being able to do NBA workouts,” O’Neal told Hughes. “This year I got better and I woke up one day and I was like ‘I want to go to the NBA.’ I had that dream going into high school, but sitting in that surgery I wasn’t really worried about basketball. I just wanted to get healthy.
“After all this I’ve went through, to make it to the NBA would be a dream come true…. Every day I take off my shirt and look at the scar and that keeps me motivated.”