Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal (March 6, 1972-), or Shaq Diesel, hit the NBA like a freight train, becoming one of the largest men to grace the NBA hard court and redefining what the typical “big man” could do. Raised as an Army brat, traveling from place to place, O’Neal eventually found a home at Louisiana State University where he was a two-time All-American and SEC Player of the Year. In the star filled 1992 NBA Draft, Shaq was the Number 1 overall pick by the Orlando Magic. Leading Orlando to a 41-41 record, a 20-win improvement from the previous season, Shaq won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award and was named to his first All-Star Game, becoming the first rookie since Michael Jordan (1985) to be named an All-Star starter. In his third season in the NBA, O’Neal led the league in scoring and led the Magic to the NBA Finals for the first time in his career, but were dispatched by the Houston Rockets in four games. Already being compared to his Hall of Fame contemporaries, in 1996, Shaq was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. He was named to the 1996 United States Olympic Basketball team that won the gold medal in the Atlanta Olympic Summer Games. O’Neal signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers where he teamed up with the young star Kobe Bryant. Beginning in 1999-00, Shaq and Kobe led the Lakers to three consecutive NBA Final Championships under the expert guidance of already six-time NBA Champion coach Phil Jackson. In 2000, Shaquille was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.
After spending eight seasons with the Lakers, winning three NBA titles, Shaq moved to the Miami Heat and won his fourth title in 2005-06. Shaq was the dominant center with every team throughout his career leading the league ten times in field goal percentage, five times in field goals and won three NBA scoring titles. He was named the NBA Finals MVP three times, was a 15-time NBA All-Star selection and was named to 14 All-NBA First Second and Third Teams. As his body began to break down with age and injuries, Shaquille played a couple more seasons with contenders (Phoenix, Cleveland, Boston), chasing a championship, before retiring following the 2010-11 season. Shaquille finished his likely-Hall of Fame career with 28,596 points, 2,732 blocks, 3,310 turnovers, 13,099 total rebounds, 11,330 field goals and a .582 field goal percentage. Seemingly any word attached to “Shaq” became a way to describe the bigger this life character. O’Neal branched out during his career in basketball, starring in major motion pictures, producing rap albums and building a lovable persona making him a fan favorite on and off the court.