Beyond Sports: Dr. Shaquille O'Neal

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[On Leadership]

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.

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

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

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

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 ( <> & USAfrica Magazine (

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