Shaquille O’Neal’s 7’1″ frame has been a feature of the sport of basketball for nearly twenty years now, and ‘The Man of Steel’ continues to compete at the very highest level. More than his intimidating size though, O’Neal’s speed and skill as well as power have wowed crowds worldwide. From an infamous ‘drop-step’ attack to his defense position guarding the post, O’Neal is an instantly recognizable individual and unquestionably one of the greats of the game, with career averages of 25.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal was born in March 1972 in New Jersey. O’Neal was brought up by his stepfather as his biological father, Michael, was a drug addict who relinquished all rights to him. O’Neal’s mother was a Baptist and his stepfather a Muslim who worked as a soldier and was stationed in West Germany during O’Neal’s childhood. Young Shaquille led the basketball team at his American school in Germany. When he enrolled at Louisiana State University (LSU), O’Neal was soon spotted by the basketball team’s coach, and soon after that, it became clear that he should leave LSU to go pro and pursue a career with the NBA.
After training under basketball legend Magic Johnson, O’Neal signed with Orlando Magic in 1992. His first season was impressive, with ominous signs of what was to come when O’Neal twice broke the hoop and support with the force of his slam-dunk. The next season was even better, as the Magic made the playoffs for the first time in history, and O’Neal held the NBA’s field-goal percentage record for the season. He also recorded his first triple-double that year.
The third season was more difficult, with O’Neal’s star on the wane. He spent much of the fourth season off-court due to injury, and when his contract expired that year he decided to move on, joining the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996. Despite initial difficulties with injury and settling in, he and Kobe Bryant led the franchise to victory in the NBA finals for three consecutive years from 2000 until 2002. O’Neal was named Most Valued Player (MVP) of the finals all three times. He also won MVP of the Season for the 1999-2000 campaign.
After some squabbling with Bryant and the management over contract issues, O’Neal decided to leave the Lakers in 2004, when he was traded to Miami Heat in exchange for three other players – a testament to his stature. That season, he immediately took them to victory in the Eastern Conference Finals and a Game 7 against the Detroit Pistols in the finals. In 2005, he signed a five-year contract for $100 million dollars