Shaquille O’Neal: Center of attention

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Last week, N.B.A. great Shaquille O’Neal announced his retirement after 19 years of playing professional basketball. He stood 7’1” and weighed over 325 pounds (depending on the day of the week). He was one of the biggest people to ever play the game.

He left Louisiana State University (LSU) after 3 years to join the N.B.A. He was picked as the number 1 player in 1992 draft by the Orlando Magic. He was chosen as the rookie of the year and went on to become one of the most dominant centers in the history of the game.

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Shaq won 4 championships, 3 with the Los Angeles Lakers and 1 with the Miami Heat. If you want to read more about his basketball accomplishments, just google him.

All of sports has been buzzing about his retirement and paying homage to him and his career. But, my faithful readers know that I am constantly looking for a different angle when writing about an issue. Shaq’s retirement is no different.

Shaq had one of the most endearing personalities you will ever encounter. Beneath all the humor was a man of great seriousness. The times we were together, we had very engaging conversations, mixed with a lot of wild humor.

He used his sense of humor to make people comfortable with him because, at his height and weight, he was a very imposing figure. Because of this affability, he has one of the most extensive rolodexes of any athlete anywhere. Even in retirement, he can pick up the phone and call some of the most influential people from the worlds of business, politics, sports and entertainment.

He planned for his retirement with his personality. He has made over $ 300 million in his career (this does not include well over $ 100 million in various endorsement deals), so money should not be an issue with him. But, because he used his personality to build relationships, he has the whole world at his fingertips.

With his many championships, with his larger than life personality, and with all the people he knows; there is one thing about him that stands out with me more than anything else. It’s the one thing you rarely, if ever, hear mentioned when talking about Shaq.

After leaving LSU in 1992, Shaq eventually earned his college degree in 2000, receiving a BA in General Studies. But, he didn’t stop there. He went on to earn his M.B.A. in 2005 from the University of Phoenix. But, he didn’t stop there. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D in Leadership and Education with a specialization in Human Resource Development from Barry University in Florida.

So, don’t be fooled by Shaq’s crazy sense of humor. Behind the humor is a highly motivated person who is striving to make himself a better person away from the game of basketball.

With all the money he has, he didn’t need to finish his degree from LSU and surely didn’t need the advanced degrees. But, his educational pursuits are about self actualization—being the best he can be for self empowerment.

I found an interesting, but sad anecdote about Shaq. When I googled “Shaquille O’Neal,” I got 9.2 million hits. But, when I googled “Shaquille O’Neal and education,” I got 2.69 million hits. So, there are almost 4 times as many references to Shaq’s basketball career than there is to his educational accomplishments. What a shame!

If Shaq were pulled over by the police for driving while intoxicated, it would be all over the news. So, if Shaq had run afoul of the law, the media would be giving him the 3rd degree; but there is hardly a mention of him pursuing his 3rd degree!

For this accomplishment, Shaq deserves to be the center of attention.

(Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm. He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (www.excellstyle.com) & USAfrica Magazine (www.USAfricaonline.com).)

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