Black History Month: Shaquille O’Neal is legend far beyond basketball


Keith Allison / Wikimedia Commons

NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal’s strength in scoring and defense are defining attributes of the center’s Hall of Fame career. During their championship season in 2006, O’Neal averaged 20 points and 9.2 rebounds for the Miami Heat.

If asked to describe Shaquille O’Neal in one word, chances are you would say “massive.” He stands at a towering 7 feet tall, after all. Yet, not many people recognize O’Neal beyond his height and basketball.

Often basketball players – and athletes in general – are stereotyped as dumb jocks. More often than not, this stereotype falls upon African-American athletes. But stereotypes aren’t always reality: they are skewed and ignorant perceptions. 

The Hall of Famer made 15 All-Star appearances, won four championships and sits eighth in all-time scoring. But that’s not the most impressive part of his resume.

O’Neal has a doctorate degree. So, that’s Dr. O’Neal to you, pal. 

O’Neal attended LSU for his undergraduate education. Though he left school early for the NBA Draft, he would return in 2000 to earn his business degree. O’Neal then earned an MBA from the University of Phoenix. Finally, in 2012, O’Neal earned his doctorate degree from Barry University in Florida.

Shaq the businessman

As a young man, O’Neal spent his money impulsively. As he matured, he learned to invest his money wisely. As of 2019, O’Neal’s investment portfolio includes Google, Apple, 24 Hour Fitness and nightclubs in Las Vegas. O’Neal also heavily invests in the food industry. According to CNBC, he owns 17 Auntie Anne’s, a Krispy Kreme franchise and a Big Chicken restaurant in Las Vegas.

According to USA Today, O’Neal’s most recent major investment was with Papa John’s. The deal reportedly includes a spot on the company’s board of directors, over 87,000 shares of stock and his face on the brand.

The Charismatic endorser 

O’Neal’s charisma stretches farther than his massive height. Most recently, Shaq has become the poster boy for ICY HOT pain relief, Gold Bond baby powder and Papa John’s. However, according to USA Today, O’Neal has endorsed approximately 50 brands. 

The Basketball broadcaster

O’Neal is part of TNT’s “Inside the NBA” show alongside Charles Barkley, Ernie Johnson and Kenny Smith.  According to Sports Illustrated, “Inside the NBA” is frequently the second most-watched program on cable throughout the NBA playoffs, trailing only live game coverage. The show is raw and unscripted and usually ends with some friendly beef between Barkley and O’Neal, both NBA veterans. 

Beef with Bryant

We would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge O’Neal’s feud with the late Bryant. Shaq and Bryant were dominant as members of the Lakers. They won three championships together. But naturally, their superstar egos got in the way. Bryant remained a Laker while O’Neal was shipped to Miami. 

The fallout between Bryant and O’Neal left NBA fans wondering what could have been if they remained together. 

Athletes are people too: they have a brain, feelings, emotions and personalities. Yes, Shaq was an outstanding and dominant basketball player, but thanks to his gravitating charisma and his business savvy, his legacy extends far beyond basketball.