Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shareef O’Neal, attended a pre-NBA Draft workout at the Lakers’ facility on Tuesday against his father’s wishes.
Shaq, whose No. 34 Lakers jersey was retired by the team in 2013, preferred that his 22-year-old son stay in school, but Shareef insists he is ready for the jump to the NBA.
“We’re in awe of this process,” the young O’Neal told reporters Tuesday, two days before the 2022 NBA Draft, at the Lakers’ practice facility, adding that he hasn’t leaned on his father to help him. Ask him for advice throughout the process.
Shareef, like her father, attended LSU, but had a very different story than her father. He played a total of 37 games over three seasons with UCLA and LSU due to a series of health issues, averaging 11 minutes, three rebounds and 2.6 points per game. The underwent open heart surgery during his freshman year (December 2018) at UCLA and was sidelined with foot and ankle injuries in both of his seasons at LSU.
“He wanted me to stay in school. He wanted to improve myself through this,” Shareef said of his father, who dominated at LSU before becoming No. 1 in Orlando in the 1992 NBA draft. “He knows I’m working with teams. . But I’m not going to lie, we haven’t talked about this. I’m just going through it. He didn’t do any pre-draft training; he just came straight to the [Orlando Magic]so it’s a different routine.
“So he didn’t want me to do this, and I know he probably doesn’t want me to say this, but I’m sorry. We’re both adults, we’ll get through this.”
Shaq did not graduate before entering the NBA, but ended up returning to LSU to complete his degree. He went on to earn an online master’s degree from the University of Phoenix and a Ph.D. from Barry University.
The Lakers have no pick in the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday night, but have continued to hold pre-draft workouts with young talent including Jordan Hall (St. Joseph’s), Cole Swider (Syracuse), Orlando Robinson ( Fresno State), Kyler Edwards (Houston) and Isaiah Whaley (UConn).
“I feel like he and I have a completely different story now,” Shareef said when asked if he felt any pressure following his father’s legacy. “I went through some things that he didn’t go through. He was the first pick in the draft. I had to work hard to get here. I had to grind a lot. I’ve had to go through some things in the last four years — foot injuries, heart surgeries — and I don’t really seem to be in the shadow of him.”
O’Neal, a 6-foot-10, 215-pound power forward, participated in the G League Elite prospect camp last month.
“I felt like in college I wasn’t getting enough opportunities. I didn’t feel like myself in college,” she said. “[The invite] It opened many doors for me. … I feel like she really brought me back and showed me a little bit of what I can do. And once I started getting calls from fitness teams, I was like, ‘Man, this is what I want to do.’ I mean I’m here, it’s right in front of me, so do it. So I kept working.”
O’Neal said Shaq “didn’t like the idea at all” when his son decided to bet on the NBA. There’s a strong chance that Shareef won’t be drafted Thursday night and he’ll have to work his way through the league as a free agent.
“It sucks that he didn’t like that idea, but I’m a grown man, I’m 22, I can make my own decisions,” Shareef said. “It was right in front of my face. I’m not backing down. I’ll go look for him if I see him. This is how I’m built. I take everything the same way. I had heart surgery the same way.
“Getting clean was right in front of me, being healthy was right in front of me, and I went for it. I’m not backing down to anyone. I know he’s an NBA legend, I know he’s my dad, but he was right in front of me, I had to go get him. So whether he likes it or not, he’s not going to stop me from doing what I want to do.”
Shareef showed up at the Lakers’ facility, where he wore No. 6 during pre-draft workouts.
“Hopefully LeBron [James] don’t get angry,” he said. “I have his [No. 6] practice the shirt on”.