Shaquille O’Neal and his mother are very close, having lived in difficult conditions before the big man draft. The latter also said a few years ago that they had developed a certain habit before each kick-off… Clearly, the anecdote has something to smile about.
Do you say that if Shaquille O’Neal was a real monster of basketball in the 90s and 2000s, we almost saw him land later than expected on the grounds of the big league. Arrived in 1992 in Orlando, the native of Brooklyn was a hair’s breadth from receiving a soap from his mother by being drafted so early. As Lucille O’Neal explained in 2019 during an interview, the pivot was thus supposed to stay one more year in the NCAA because of a certain family rule:
I always told my kids that if they wanted to be professional athletes, they also had to be good at school. I wanted him to stay in college and graduate before going to the NBA. But he only played three years in college. He said, « I have to take it to the next level. »
We can understand the attitude of the matriarch, who raised her children in difficult conditions and who only wanted one thing: that her offspring have the best possible chances when it comes to entering the world of work. Fortunately for him, the Big Cactus was a generational talent and established himself as one of the best all-time players. This did not, however, prevent him from obtaining a doctorate in education years later, in order to fulfill his promise.
Chewing gum before every game for Shaquille O’Neal
In the meantime, he’s had plenty of opportunity to thank his mother for all she’s done for him and his siblings, using her massive stipend to make his life easier. The Shaqtus and she share a very close relationship and even had a few little habits when he was raging in the NBA. Indeed, as she says, she systematically gave him the same thing before each kick-off:
I gave him a wink and a smile, and he played his game. But when he came to the NBA, we had a ritual. I would give him gum, then kiss him, and tell him to play his game. Like a grown man.
Say that, you might think we’re talking about a kid fiddling with the orange ball for the first time! And yet, this corresponds rather well to the Hall of Famer who has always remained a big kid on the floors, never the last to clown around.
So we know Shaquille O’Neal’s big secret: chewing gum and a kiss from his dear mother before each game. A real lucky charm obviously, given his outrageous domination during his career!