I just might write an entire series of articles dedicated to Shaq and his numerous extracurricular pursuits.
He is a famous NBA player who played from the Lakers to the Celtics. Amidst all of the injuries and the backlash from the audience and the media, he managed to continue maintaining a million-dollar career for 19 years.
This memoir follows his life from his birth all the way up to his retirement from basketball and the business ventures that he undertook after that point.
A major part of Shaq’s life is undoubtedly his height, which is above seven feet. As such, he was always called names in school because of it. However, it also enabled him in his early years to be aggressive if it meant intimidating anyone who wronged him or any of his friends. His height also provided major limitations to his daily life and career options. He had to drive individually-made cars and he could not become a SWAT officer.
Finances also play a role in Shaq’s life, even from an early age after reading Kareem Abdul-Jabar’s biography and his failure in investing in soybeans. He would eventually hire an accountant when it turned out that his first million-dollar paycheck would need to be deducted to account for taxes. His accountant, named Lester Knipel, would eventually inspire him to get more involved in business. He would eventually start employing business tactics in the his daily routine, such as buying a car and managing to haggle down the price.
His own father wanted Shaq to become more involved in other essential professions besides sports, since he did not want black people to be always associated with sports.
Not only in his son’s aspirations, but in all aspects of Shaq’s life, his father, a drill sergeant, would be a major influence. Family is another theme in Shaq’s memoir. Although his father was corporal with him, his father would also watch him practice and would always intercede when something was wrong, either because of Shaq’s or anyone else’s missteps. His father provided so much influence in Shaq’s life that he no longer wanted to associate with his biological father, who left him and his mother while she was pregnant with him. Though what he may have gotten from his biological parents, in terms of genetics, is his height, since his biological father and mother were described as being tall.
Not only would Shaq’s height be the subject of ridicule, but also race. This was especially the case in the South, where in the case of a Texas college he was competing against, there was a scarecrow hanging outside wearing his jersey, which meant to represent him. he would later comment that if people gave him problem for anything, then he would be his major motivator to succeed even harder.
Indeed, Shaq had to endure a lot of crap from the press and the fanbase while he was in the NBA, which encouraged him to make any snappy comebacks whenever a reporter tried to push the wrong button.
Though, there have been plenty of moments when Shaq acted foolishly throughout his life. Whether it involved spit-balling the board in school or mocking the Chinese language before meeting Yao Ming, he has gotten himself into a lot of trouble for whatever he may have said or done.
I placed Shaq’s memoir as a book to review for this site, because I consider Shaq to be a polymath. The reason being that he has led what the back blurb called a “unique and multidimensional life.” Indeed, he was a basketball player, but also a businessman, a reserve police officer, and a rapper. Of course, there was a point when he was told that he could not let his rap and acting interfere with his basketball career.
Shaq mentioned, during his time as a rapper, that he was friends with Biggie Smalls. He would eventually be invited to one of his parties, but could not make it. He would then discover the news that Biggie was killed by a drive-by shooting.
Shaq writes a lot about Kobe Bryant (who passed away a couple of months ago) and how he was initially friends with him during their first time together, but then they started drifting apart. Although they were never close friends, they would eventually become rivals.
By the end of the memoir, Shaq noted the importance of social media to brand, since the mundane details of a successful person’s life should not matter. Since this was around the time of his retirement (which was uploaded on Tout, which was a social network site that he endorsed), he emphasized the need to keep up with technological advancement.
Since he made his start as a basketball player, there are frequent uses of basketball jargon, such as rebound and foul. I do not follow sports at all, so it was something to keep up with.
Throughout the book, Shaq constantly refers to friends and fellow players with an abbreviated first names added to their last names, such as BShaw. What is also quite fanciful is how Shaq mentions how he was able to put the shortened form of his name Shaq on any word to form a portmanteau.
What was surprising is how much Shaq swears in this memoir. Throughout my life, I only knew Shaq simply as the friendly giant of the NBA. Of course, this literary genre only seeks to reveal the writer’s rawest form.
Real World Application
I discussed in my review of Malcolm X’s autobiography that the trajectory that black youth are given can ultimately determine their career paths, which is why it is irresponsible to suggest that there sports are a “black profession.” This, in turn, leads to stereotypes being made.
In which case, table-tennis champion Matthew Syed would agree that someone may unwittingly be playing upon racial eugenics by saying that the reason why black men get into basketball is because of their inherent blackness–and Shaq would be their example; which would ignore the fact that Shaq and many other basketball players are exceptions, especially since the average African-American adult male and the average white American adult male have roughly the same height with a very small margin between them. As mentioned previously, it could be the case that genetics gave Shaq his height, though it could be applied to anyone of any race. If someone’s biological parents are short, then it would be the case that they would be short as well.
What can be taken from Shaq’s memoir is that humans are too complicated to narrow their job preferences based on their race as well as their physical stature. Just because someone is seven-feet-tall does not mean that they are guaranteed a basketball career. In fact, Shaq noted how clumsy he was during practice when he was just starting to play. So, he was not given a natural advantage by nature herself.
As such, another moral to take from this is to always practice in order to achieve anything. That was exactly what one of Shaq’s coaches told him and it is a theme that plays out in this memoir–and the human condition.
Of course, another moral that can be taken from this memoir is the importance of long-term planning. It was what helped Shaq be able to retain his wealth after his basketball career. He was told by his father that his basketball career would not last long, especially if he got an injury that would permanently incapacitate him from basketball. Indeed, he was coldly traded off because the Lakers needed younger players. So, basically everyone needs a backup plan.
Recommend This To…
- Anyone who is seven-feet-tall, or above-average height at any age. They will be inspired by Shaquille O’Neal’s career and how he managed to achieve so much in spite of his height. They would even relate to him when it came to the names he was called.
- Anyone who is looking for a rags-to-riches story, since Shaq will inspire anyone with his story from being born in the urban ghetto of Newark to becoming a multi-millionaire.
- Anyone who is unsure of their future, especially if they are convinced that they need a narrow career path. Shaq would show them that sometimes even a million-dollar career in the NBA would not last long if age becomes an issue. This would also be relevant to anyone in careers where age becomes the ultimate deciding factor of future employment.
- “The Autobiography of Malcolm X: As Told To Alex Haley.” 1st Trade Edition. Ballatine Books. February 1992.
- O’Neal, Shaquille with Jackie MacMullan. “Shaq Uncut: My Story.” 1st Trade Edition. Grand Central Publishing. 2012.
- Syed, Matthew. “Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success.” Harper. 2010.