When one thinks of basketball player Shaquille O'Neal, the image of the big "Shaq" pops into the mind. A dominant player for years, the 7 foot 1, 330-pound mountain is a nightmare to play against for opposing teams. He has been voted into the top 50 players of all time.
He will certainly go to the Hall-of-Fame.He has made an outlandish amount of money in the sport he loves. Millions upon millions of dollars to play a game, Shaq has everything a man can want in terms of property and possessions.O'Neal is interesting for other reasons, though. Despite all of his wealth, he has a desire to do good in life. Perhaps it is due to his mother and stepfather, a military man named Phil Harrison, that have guided him.
Shaq always refers to Harrison as his father without a blink. In reality that is so since Harrison did all the heavy-lifting in terms of raising a family. Shaquille married his longtime girlfriend with whom he has children. That may not sound like a big deal but it sends a message. This is particularly true for the black community since the out-of-wedlock birthrate is an astounding 70%. Marriage sends a positive message instead of the view of another athlete just running around impregnating anything that moves.
O'Neal also went back and got his college degree. A cynic would say, "Why bother?" but it is an accomplishment for him and a promise to his mother. It also says college is important since virtually nobody will become an NBA player despite the marketing of it everywhere. You have a better chance of getting hit by lightning.Most interesting is his interest in police work. Shaq is already a reserve officer for Miami Beach paid $1 a year.
He holds a similar title for Bedford County, Virginia. He is also a U.S Deputy Marshal where his focus is preventing predators of children.
When legendary basketball player George Mikan passed-away recently, O'Neal stepped-up and paid the funeral expenses since Mikan received just a $1,400-a-month pension from the NBA. Money-wise, Mikan came at the wrong time and O'Neal stepped into a windfall, right or wrong. But Shaq's decency is what this is all about.
In an era of absurdly paid athletes, greed, thuggish behavior, etc., Shaquille O'Neal sends the right message in most cases. He is even liked by the media and often plays around with them. Compare that to the often brooding athlete who can't handle talking to the media to answer questions about hitting or bouncing a ball. Boy, what tough questions to answer! No athlete should ever be viewed as a hero because it simply is not true.
They are just men and women who do one particular thing better than most people and that's it. However, with so much media attention focused on these people, it is great to see someone doing the right thing on several fronts. Shaquille O'Neal is a guy most fans can appreciate and look at with respect..Robert Carberry is a freelance writer from New York.
By: Robert Carberry