Friday, October 10, 2003
Updated: May 15, 6:12 PM ET
Center of Attention
By Pat Smith, Jr.
Special to ESPN.com
June 7, 2000 - When season long co-star Kobe Bryant sprained his left ankle in the first quarter of Game 2 of the NBA Finals, the burden of carrying the Lakers to victory over Indiana fell on Shaquille O'Neal. Bringing his many talents to bear, Shaq dominated the game on both ends of the floor.
The Pacers were using the collapsing "Hack-a-Shaq" defense in the hope of reducing the league MVP's production. O'Neal made them pay by quickly passing out of the double teams, creating open shots for Glen Rice and Ron Harper, who each scored 21 points.
Despite failing to make 50 percent of his foul shots, Shaq scored 40 points. He attempted a Finals record 39 free throws and made 18. He shot 11-of-18 from the field, grabbed 24 rebounds and handed out four assists en route to a 111-104 Lakers win.
Odds 'n' Ends
Shaq's mother, Lucille O'Neal Harrison, is 6-foot-2 and his grandfather, who was a farmer in Georgia, was about 6-foot-10.
When O'Neal was five, his mother carried her son's birth certificate with her around their hometown of Newark, N.J., to prove to bus drivers that her overgrown son was not eight or nine.
Around the age of seven, O'Neal switched superheroes, from the Incredible Hulk to Superman because the "S" logo matched his first initial. He later had the logo put on his front door, on the wheels of his Rolls Royce and the headlights of his Mercedes.
O'Neal (1990-92) was the first player since Charles Barkley to lead the Southeastern Conference in rebounding three straight seasons.
In 1991, Shaq led the nation in rebounding with his 14.7 average.
O'Neal set the SEC record for blocks in a season three consecutive years (115 in 1990, 140 in 1991 and 157 in 1992)
O'Neal registered 73 double-doubles during his three years at LSU.
He became the third player to score more than 700 points in consecutive seasons at LSU. Pete Maravich and Chris Jackson were the first two.
At the end of his stint with the Magic, O'Neal had a falling out with the team's other star, Penny Hardaway.
Shaq played on the gold medal-winning U.S. teams at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and at the 1994 World Championships in Toronto.
He has led the NBA in field-goal percentage nine times (1994, 1998-2002 and 2004-2006).
O'Neal enjoys spending free time hunting for wild game, riding go-carts, watching Kung-Fu movies, The Little Rascals and Seinfeld, and eating fried shrimp sandwiches prepared by his live-in chef.
Shaq answered his father, who abandoned him as a child, in the rap song Biological Didn't Bother.
He said he met his biological father, Joe Toney, only twice -- once when he was "two or three" and again at nine. Shaq considers his stepfather, Phillip Harrison, "the only father I ever knew."
In the late 1990s, O'Neal and his former agent, Leonard Armato, launched an online clothing-and-shoe company, Dunk.net. It went bust after the dot-com crash. Another clothing line also failed.
After two LAPD cruisers were destroyed in the fracas that followed the 2000 Finals, Shaq bought replacements, fully loaded, for the department.
Besides Shaq in 2000, the only other players to win MVP awards for the regular season, NBA Finals and All-Star Game in the same season were Willis Reed in 1970 and Michael Jordan in 1996.
Shaq's endorsements have been estimated to earn him between $8 million and $10 million a year.
On Dec. 26, 2002, Shaq married former film marketer Shaunie Nelson, 28, at the Beverly Hills Hotel. They already had two kids together - Shareef, then two, and Amirah, then one - and a third (Shaqir) was on the way. In May 2006, the couple welcomed daughter Me'arah Sanaa to the family. Shaq also has a daughter from a previous relationship.
In 2004, O'Neal won his second All-Star Game MVP after scoring 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in a 136-132 West victory.
O'Neal thinks Bryant is a selfish player who is interested only in showing his skills.
To obtain O'Neal, the Miami Heat sent Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, Brian Grant and a No. 1 draft pick to the Lakers on July 14, 2004.
Before his first game with Miami, the overweight O'Neal lost 40 pounds, dropping to 325.
When the Heat defeated the Mavericks in the 2006 Finals, O'Neal didn't score 20 points in any of the six games (twice failing to reach double figures) and shot just 29.2 percent (14-of-48) from the foul line.
In 2006-07, O'Neal made a career-low 42.2 percent of his foul shots -- down from a career-high of 62.2 percent four years earlier.
In his first 15 seasons, he shot 52.5 percent from the foul line compared to 58.0 from the field.