O'Neal, Shaquille


O'Neal, Shaquille
▪ 2001

      Before 2000, Los Angeles Lakers centre Shaquille O'Neal—a 2.16-m (7-ft 1-in), 143-kg (315-lb) giant of a man who, nonetheless, was a remarkably agile athlete and a great leaper—had averaged 27.5 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, had made regular appearances in the National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star game, and had been named in 1996 to the league's list of its 50 greatest players of all time. O'Neal had not, however, won a championship—a fact that fueled the perception that he cared more about himself than his teams. In 2000 O'Neal finally answered his critics by leading the Lakers to the NBA title and becoming only the third player in history to be named the Most Valuable Player of the regular season, the All-Star game, and the finals in the same season.

      As early as his freshman year at Louisiana State University (LSU) in 1989, O'Neal was expected by fans and journalists to become one of the game's great players; many of those same observers, however, seemed to resent his presence and revel in his failures. The failures included a number of early exits from the NBA postseason by O'Neal's teams—including the 1994–95 Orlando Magic, which was swept in four games by the Houston Rockets in the finals. The resentment was inspired by a number of factors, including the league's overwrought attempts to promote O'Neal as its marquee player and O'Neal's own self-promotion, which included rap albums and a feature film, Kazaam (1996), the story of a rapping genie.

      Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal was born on March 6, 1972, in Newark, N.J. As a high-school senior in San Antonio, Texas, he attracted the attention of college recruiters when his team won the state championship. After being named the Consensus College Player of the Year as a junior at LSU, O'Neal opted for the NBA draft and was taken with the first pick by Orlando. In 2000, however, he finished his studies and earned a degree from LSU.

      Named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1992–93, O'Neal led the Magic to a 41–41 record—20 wins better than the previous season. Two years later O'Neal won the scoring title and led Orlando to the finals against Houston. After Houston's sweep of the Magic, O'Neal developed a reputation for losing big games. Opposing teams purposely fouled him, knowing that he was less likely to make free throws than to score a field goal. He joined the Lakers in 1996, and although he continued to dominate on offense, his teams also continued to disappoint in the play-offs. That changed in 1999–2000 when new Lakers coach Phil Jackson transformed O'Neal. At Jackson's urging, O'Neal became more of a team player, paying special attention to his defense, rebounding, and free-throw shooting. The result was that the most dominating player in the game won his first championship since high school.

Anthony G. Craine

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▪ American basketball player
in full  Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal , byname  Shaq 
born March 6, 1972, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
 
 American basketball player, named in 1996 to the National Basketball Association (NBA) list of its 50 greatest players of all time.

      As a high-school senior in San Antonio, Texas, O'Neal attracted the attention of college recruiters when his team won the state championship. He attended Louisiana State University (LSU), where he quickly established himself as one of the best players in the nation. He was named the consensus College Player of the Year in 1991. O'Neal left school and entered the NBA draft in 1992 and was taken with the first pick by the Orlando Magic. In 2000, however, he finished his studies and earned a degree from LSU.

      Named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1992–93, O'Neal led the Magic to a 41–41 record, 20 wins better than the previous season. Two years later he won the scoring title and led Orlando to the finals against the Houston Rockets. After Houston's sweep of the Magic, O'Neal developed a reputation for losing big games. O'Neal's great size and strength—he stood 7 feet 1 inch (2.16 metres) tall and weighed 315 pounds (143 kg)—made him virtually impossible to stop on the offensive end of the court. He was, however, a poor free-throw shooter, and opponents adopted a strategy (known as “Hack-a-Shaq”) of intentionally fouling him, knowing that he was less likely to make free throws than to score a field goal.

      O'Neal was a member of the so-called Dream Team, the U.S. Olympic basketball team that won the gold medal in 1996, the same year he joined the Los Angeles Lakers. Although O'Neal continued to dominate on offense, his teams also continued to disappoint in the play-offs. That changed in 1999–2000, when, under new Lakers coach Phil Jackson, O'Neal became the league's Most Valuable Player. At Jackson's urging, O'Neal became more of a team player, paying special attention to his defense, rebounding, and free-throw shooting. The result was that O'Neal led the Lakers to championships in 2001, 2002, and 2003.

      In 2004 O'Neal was traded to the Miami Heat, where he teamed with the talented young guard Dwyane Wade to lead Miami to an NBA championship in 2006. Injuries limited O'Neal's production over the following seasons, and he was traded to the Phoenix Suns in February 2008.

      O'Neal had limited success as a rapper and as an actor, starring in such feature films as Blue Chips (1994), Kazaam (1996), and Steel (1997).

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Universalium. 2010.

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