March 6, 1972
Newark, New Jersey, United States
Actor, Lyricist, Professional athlete
Arnetta Yardbourgh, Shaunie O'Neal
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Abandoned by his convict father before he was a year old, Shaquille O'Neal channeled his childhood anger into a remarkable career with the National Basketball Association. Drafted out of college by the Orlando Magic in 1992, he was named Rookie of the Year at the close of his first pro season. At 7'1" tall and 300 lbs., "Shaq" was a magnet for media attention. He made a credible dramatic debut in Paramount's college basketball drama "Blue Chips" (1994), but the film's poor reception set the tone for his critically savaged star turns in Disney's fantastical "Kazaam" (1996) and "Steel" (1997), an adaptation of the DC superhero comic book. Rebounding with a string of gold and platinum-selling rap albums, O'Neal scored on the basketball court with the Los Angeles Lakers, whom he led to three consecutive championships. Not satisfied with fame and wealth, or with leading the American Dream Team to Olympic gold at the 1996 Summer Olympics, O'Neal surprised his fans by becoming a reserve police officer after his trade to the Miami Heat in 2004. Plagued by injuries as a member of the Boston Celtics, O'Neal retired from professional sports in 2011. Colorful, larger than life, and largely untouched by off-court scandal, Shaquille O'Neal distinguished himself in a multi-hyphenate career as a role model for disadvantaged youth and young athletes alike, and as the embodiment of a bona fide American success story.Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal was born on March 6, 1972, in Newark, NJ to father, Joseph Toney, and mother, Lucille O'Neal. The scion of a prominent Newark family, Toney named his son after an Arabic expression for Little Warrior. An All-Star high school basketball player, Toney attended Seton Hall on an athletic scholarship, but his further education and adult life were derailed when he became addicted to drugs. Arrested for his part in a check-forging scheme in December 1972, Toney entered a federal prison early the next year, relinquishing custodianship of his infant son to the baby's new stepfather, Phillip Harrison. A sergeant in the Army Reserves, Harrison relocated with wife Lucille and her son to Bavaria, where he was stationed as a drill instructor at the U.S. Army Training Base in Wildflecken. Bitter about his parents' divorce and his father's abandonment, O'Neal developed into a troubled youth who was disrespectful of authority, engaged in frequent fights, and dabbled in petty crime before finding an outlet for his aggression in shooting hoops. At the age of 13, O'Neal was scouted by Dale Brown, a coach for Louisiana State University, who was in Germany to teach a basketball clinic and mistook the already 6'6" O'Neal for an enlisted man. Brown expressed his desire to recruit O'Neal for the LSU team, even though the youth still had two more years of high school to complete.Finishing his primary education in the United States at Robert G. Cole High School in San Antonio, TX, O'Neal led the basketball team to a 68-1 win/loss record, helping it to achieve state championship status before his graduation in 1989. Under the mentorship of Dale Brown at Louisiana State, O'Neal was named a two-time All-American athlete and awarded the Adolph Rupp Trophy as the National Collegiate Athletic Association's player of the year in 1991. Dropping out of college his senior year to go pro with the National Basketball Association, the now 7'1" O'Neal was drafted by Florida's Orlando Magic. In 1993, he was named Rookie of the Year and was the first rookie named an All-Star starter since Michael Jordan in 1985. O'Neal's first season in the NBA also benefited from the tutelage of former Los Angeles Laker Earvin "Magic" Johnson. After an impressive four years with Orlando, O'Neal shifted to the LA Lakers as a free agent, which he later helped achieve three consecutive championships. O'Neal's impressive physical presence and penchant for colorful nicknames - Shaq, The Diesel, Shaque Fu and Big Daddy - made him a natural for pop culture canonization.