Let’s face it, we’ve all been presumptuous at one time or another, quick to define an individual by their profession. For example, professional athletes are often typecast as uneducated individuals whose talents lie solely within the confines of their sport.
Former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal is the antithesis of the “typical athlete.” Former still has an odd ring to it; after logging almost two decades in the league, O’Neal announced his retirement in June.
For one, the 7-foot-1 icon, whose career skyrocketed in Florida with the Orlando Magic in 1992, will be able to add “Dr.” to his name in just a few months as he works toward his Ph.D. from Barry University.
His image has graced both the small and big screens. He appears in the comedy “Jack and Jill” starring Adam Sandler, Al Pacino and Katie Holmes in November.
The father of five even tried his hand at music in the '90s, releasing his debut album, “Shaq Diesel,” in 1993. It peaked at No. 25 on the Billboard charts and was eventually certified double platinum.
The Newark, NJ, native has always maintained an interest in law enforcement, and went through the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Reserve Academy and became a reserve officer. He experienced a similar program in Miami Beach (when he was traded to the Heat) and was named an honorary U.S. Deputy Marshal.
The former dominant center also manages to make time for several charities, including Be the Match (a national donor marrow program), Phoenix House (alcohol and drug abuse treatment and prevention services) and The Boys and Girls Club of America.
And there’s that winning smile – the one that lights up a room. You don’t have to be a sports fan to know that Shaq is one of the most charming, engaging and good-humored athletes out there.
And it’s that humor that led to the launch of the first All-Star Comedy Jam tour, scheduled for Saturday. Handpicked by the man himself, the Ruth Eckerd Hall lineup includes Deray Davis, Corey Holcomb, Capone and Gary Owen. Produced by Shaq Entertainment (and Codeblack Entertainment), the brand has spawned a handful of network specials and a lucrative DVD series.
Here are 10 questions (because five is just not enough) with the larger-than-life, four-time NBA champ:
Patch: You received your MBA about five to six years ago and haven’t stopped since. Why is education a priority for you?
O’Neal: I am pursuing a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership and Learning (HRD) from Barry University, so I can serve as an example to my children. And I hope to be graduating this winter. Besides, education is the one thing that no one can ever take away.
Patch: What are your top three favorite and/or most defining moments?
O’Neal: When I scored 61 points on my birthday (March 6, 2000, against the L.A. Clippers); winning the three-peat (from 2000-02 wearing an L.A. Lakers uniform); and winning the championship with Miami (in 2006).
Patch: What was your favorite NBA city to visit and why?
O’Neal: Dallas, Atlanta and Houston. Why? It’s a secret. … And if I told you, they wouldn’t be my favorite cities anymore!
Patch: You are truly a Renaissance man with varied interests. Who or what inspires you?
O’Neal: My children. I have always tried to make myself mutifaceted. Sticking to just one thing just makes life boring!
Patch: Tell us about the All-Star Comedy Tour. What does it mean to you to hear laughter, especially when times are bleak?
O’Neal: Cedric the Entertainer and I have been friends for a long time, even before the comedy brand came to fruition. I am hoping that this will serve as a stress reliever that offers people an hour or two away from reality … from those bad moments.
Patch: The comedy show will be performing here in Clearwater the night before Sept. 11. Where were you the morning of 9/11?
O’Neal: In the bed asleep. I woke up and turned on the TV right when the second airplane hit the World Trade Center.
Patch: The show “Entourage” is popular within the world of sports. Who would you choose to be in your dream entourage?
O’Neal: No one. Sometimes you have to create your own entourage within yourself.
Patch: Guilty pleasure?
Patch: What do you want to say to all of your fans and supporters?
O’Neal: Thank you for many great years.
Patch: What motto do you live by?
O’Neal: Be a leader – not a follower.
If you go:
What: Shaquille O’Neal’s All-Star Comedy Jam
When: 8 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 10)
Cost: $39.50 to $49.50. Click this link for tickets.