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 his 22-year-old son stay in school, but Shareef insists he is ready for the NBA plunge.
“We kind of bump heads about this process,” the younger 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 for advice throughout the process.
Shareef, like his father, attended LSU, but had a much different story than his dad. He played a total of 37 games over three seasons with UCLA and LSU due to a number of health issues — and averaged 11 minutes, three rebounds and 2.6 points per game. Hey underwent open-heart surgery during his freshman year (Dec. 2018) at UCLA and was sidelined with foot and ankle injuries in his two seasons at LSU.
“He wanted me to stay in school. I wanted to better myself through this,” Shareef said about his father — who dominated at LSU before going No. 1 to Orlando in the 1992 NBA draft. “He knows I’m working out with teams. But I’m not going to lie, we ain’t talked about this. I’m kind of just going through it. He didn’t do any pre-draft workouts; he just got straight on the [Orlando Magic]so it’s a different grind.
“So, he didn’t want me to do this, and I know he probably doesn’t want me saying this, but sorry. We’re both grown, we’ll get past it.”
Shaq did not graduate before entering the NBA, but ended up going back to LSU to complete his degree. He then got a masters at the University of Phoenix online, and a doctorate at Barry University.
The Lakers do not have any picks 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 me and him have a whole 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 No. 1 pick in the draft. I kind of had to grind to get here. I had to grind a lot. I had to go through some stuff these past four years — foot injuries, heart surgeries — and I don’t really look to be in his shadow.”
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 opportunity. I wasn’t feeling like myself in college,” he said. “[The invite] kind of opened a lot of doors for me. … I feel like it really brought me back and kind of showed a little bit what I can do. And once I started getting calls from teams to work out, I was like, ‘Man, this is what I want to do.’ I mean I’m here, it’s right in front of me, so just go for it. So I continued to work.”
O’Neal said Shaq “didn’t like that idea at all” when his son decided to make an NBA push. It is a strong possibility that Shareef goes undrafted on Thursday night and he will have to forge his way into the league as a free agent.
“It sucks that he didn’t like that idea, but I’m a grown man, I’m 22 years old, I can make my own decisions,” Shareef said. “It was right in front of my face. I’m not backing up from it. I’m going to go get it if I see it. That’s just how I’m built. I take everything the same way. I took my heart surgery the same way.
“Being cleared was right in front of me, being healthy was right in front of me, and I went for it. I’m not backing down from nobody. I know he’s an NBA legend, I know he’s my dad, but it was right in front of me, I had to go get it. So, if he likes it or not, it’s not really going to stop me from doing what I want to do.”
Shareef reported at the Lakers facility, where he wore No. 6 during the pre-draft workout.
“Hopefully LeBron [James] doesn’t get mad,” he said. “I got his [No. 6] practice jersey on.”