The glitzy and sometimes outrageous "Shaq" was born in a poverty stricken area of Newark, NJ. Shaq, as he is now commonly known, was born Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal on March 6, 1972 to Philip and Lucille O'Neal. He was raised a "Military Brat" growing up on Army bases in New Jersey, Georgia, San Antonio and even Spain. He has one brother, Jamal, and two sisters, Lateefah and Ayesha.
The "Military Brat" lifestyle made it difficult to form friendships as a child. He escaped the loneliness of childhood by playing sports.
The now 7'1, 315 lb. Shaq did not initially excel in sports. In his freshman year of high school, attending Cole High School in San Antonio, he was actually cut from the basketball team. But the more he played the better he became. He was able to take better control of his body while fine tuning his skills.
Shaq was signed by Louisiana State University at the age of 17, after writing a letter to the coach. He played for three seasons. Then, after his junior season, he left LSU and entered the NBA draft in 1992.
To absolutely no surprise, he was selected #1 overall by the Orlando Magic. He was immediately a star being selected for the NBA All-Star game, NBA All-Rookie First Team and being named the 1992/93 NBA Rookie of the Year. Along with his early success, came the team's success as well. They made it to the 1994/1995 NBA Finals for the first time in team history. Although they were defeated by the returning NBA Champion Houston Rockets, Shaq already made a name for himself among the basketball superstars.
In 1996, he was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history and in the same year as a free agent, Shaq accepted a 120 million dollar offer from the LA Lakers leaving Orlando after only four seasons. While playing for the Lakers, he won 3 NBA Championships in 1999/2000, 2000/2001 and 2001/2002. He was also named NBA Finals MVP each of these years. In 2000, he was the first unanimously voted MVP in NBA history and won all three MVP awards as well. He led the league in scoring in 1994/95 and 1999/2000 and was ranked #1 in the NBA in Field-Goal Percentage in 2000-2001 and 2001-2002. He has been a nine-time All-Star, four-time All-NBA First Team selection and two-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team selection. Not only has he accomplished so much in the NBA but to go along with all his NBA achievements he has also won two Gold Medals, one with the 1994 U.S. Olympic Basketball team at the World Championship of Basketball in Toronto and again in 1996 for the U.S. Olympic Team at the Olympics in Atlanta.
Shaq's signing habits are typical of today's superstars in basketball, football and baseball. The growing trend appears to be that when a superstar first gets drafted or sometimes during the first or second season they can become a very difficult in-person autograph. As the years go on, they often get easier and loosen up their signing habits in-person at hotels, practice, etc. This can be said with many modern day superstars.
Shaq fits this pattern very well. At LSU and before his NBA draft, Shaq was a great in-person signer. He almost always signed and doing multiples at a time was not a problem. The problems with signing in-person didn't come until his first season with the Magic and didn't end until his first year with the LA Lakers in 1996. During the years he played with the Magic, he was considered a very tough in-person autograph. He rarely signed and seemed to almost always be accompanied by a group of friends, assistants or bodyguards. They would make approaching him very difficult and they seemed to follow him almost everywhere he went including practice. His wasn't an impossible signature during these years; however, it was very rare. He made many trips where he didn't sign anything at all and on the occasions where he did sign, it was generally limited and these times were very few and far between.
When Shaq changed teams in 1996 and joined the LA Lakers, his signing habits also changed -- for the better. Since his first season in LA, I don't think I have ever experienced a trip to a city when Shaq didn't sign at least once during the trip. He very often signs at least once, most likely before a practice. And there have been times when he signed on a few different occasions during one trip. His first season also marked the arrival of Kobe Bryant and since then it has made going to the LA Lakers a very pleasurable experience, especially considering the success of the past five years. They have become one of the greatest teams in NBA history.
The most dominating characteristic and letter of Shaq's autograph is certainly the capital "S". This is very evident in some more then others; many of the in-person signatures appear to have a more elongated larger "S". Shaq's signature has been very consistent throughout his career with the exception of his very early college signatures and official documents. The formation of his signature hasn't changed much at all and many of the differences have been small.
Shaq's capital "S" always stands alone. The initial stroke always comes from the far right and it always covers the top of the "h". In some cases, the initial stroke even covers all of his first name. The initial stroke always comes back and slights down and in some cases comes up a few inches in length depending upon the item he is signing and its size. The lower portion of the "S" sometimes starts with a retrace of the initial stroke. This characteristic is most often present in the more rushed in-person examples of his signature. He generally doesn't retrace this part if the item is a basketball, jersey or done at a sit-down signing when he can take his time.
Shaq O'Neal pre NBA 1992 draft
In some cases, there isn't a gap or a retrace but actually a loop. This can be seen occasionally and more often with signatures such as pre-NBA or early Orlando Magic years. The bottom portion of the capital "S" varies but can be 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the top portion. The in-person or rushed examples often feature a larger bottom portion. Another feature of his signature that is only prevalent in LSU or Orlando Magic year signatures is the formation of the "haq" in his first name. In all examples, he starts the "h" with a down stroke however, in his Laker year signatures, he only signs a straight line down and then an upstroke which creates approximately a 45-degree angle. In his LSU and Orlando Magic signatures, he often included a fully formed "h" as opposed to just a straight line down that can be found in the Lakers year signatures.
When he does include a fully formed "h", he comes all the way down with the initial down stroke until it reaches the baseline and comes back up about 1/3-1/5 of the way, then comes right back down to the baseline to form the "h". In the signatures where he does include more than just "Sh", the line from the "h" ascends up to the top of the "a". He then retraces or comes right back down to the baseline and right back up again to the top forming the "a". Then, he comes right back down to the baseline and starts the connecting stroke from the "a" to the "q". It is generally the same distance from the "h" to the "a" as the "a" to the "q". He forms the top of the "q" much the same way as the "a". The only difference is that the "q" loop remains open while most often the "a" is closed.
The other feature of his signature that has not changed is the way he connects the "q" to the capital "O" in O'Neal. The "q" comes down and back the same way as the top of the capital "S". The connecting stroke from the "q" to the "O" comes back down and through and back again to make the "O". The capital "O" is almost as large as the capital "S". There are some very rushed in-person signatures the past year where he leaves out the "O" and he only signs "Shaq" or "Shaq 34". He does this very infrequently and only seems to do it when in a rush.
There are also some signatures where the terminal stroke is the "O" so all he is signing is "Shaq O". These are also not common, however, there are some from signings where he does this. The majority of signatures he signs do feature more then just the capital "O" for "O'Neal". These signatures feature an ascending line that runs along the baseline and features a loop or a curl backwards towards the capital "O". This loop is never closed, however, it often curls around and points to the right. This "l" is the terminal stroke in his signature. There are some older signatures from his LSU and Orlando Magic years that have more letters in "O'Neal."
Before his draft into the NBA, his signature featured all the letters in "O'Neal" as well as the loop or curl at the end as the terminal stroke. In these signatures, the "n" is approximately 1/3 the size of the capital "O". The initial stroke is a descending stoke, it comes down to the baseline, retraces the initial stroke and comes back down to the baseline to form the "n". There is a connecting stroke to the ascending eyelet for the "ea" and the "a" is formed just like the "a" in "Shaq" with the exception that the loop is not closed. The descending stroke of the "a" leads to the "l", which is the terminal stroke in the signature, and it ends with the loop or curl that all his signatures feature. In his early NBA career with the Orlando Magic, the "O'Neal" portion of his signature was in between what it is now and what it was while he was at LSU or pre-draft. It featured a lower case "n" in "O'Neal" and the "n" was much smaller then his pre-NBA signature. The formation is the same; the only difference is the sizing. There is a connecting stroke from the "n" to the "e" and he makes small bumps or loops which make up the "ea" of the signature and the connecting stroke from the "a" to the "l" leads right into the terminal stroke of his signature.
One of the other consistent features of his signature through all the years has been his usage of his number which was #33 at LSU, #32 with the Orlando Magic and now #34 with the LA Lakers. In the LSU and Orlando Magic years, he almost always included the # before his 33 or 32. This is something that stopped since he joined the Lakers. I have not yet seen an authentic in-person example of him signing the # with his 34. The placement is always in the exact same place with the exception of some very rare early LSU signatures. He always places his respective number just to the right of his "q" in Shaq and almost always above the "l" loop or curl in O'Neal. I have seen very few examples where he placed his number inside the loop and those are mainly the older versions of his signature from the Orlando Magic era. In the very rare early LSU signatures, I have seen the #33 below his signature, which is the location where the majority of athletes add the respective #'s to their signatures.
Shaq's signature is somewhat rare; while he has done signings with UDA and others, there is a large demand for his signature and it can be difficult to find at times. UDA items are especially difficult and often command a premium over what the retail price is due to their scarcity. While he does sign often in-person, there is such a large demand for his signature that there is not nearly enough to supply the demand. Finding an authentic example can often times be a great challenge.
The value of his signature can vary depending on the uniqueness of the item however, here are the values of his autograph: 8x10 photo $85, 3x5 index card $75, basketball card $75, magazine $100, 16x20 photo $150, basketball $250, and jersey $325.