Happy Birthday, Shaq! 6 Fun Facts about the Big Fella

Today basketball superstar and entertainer Shaquille O'Neal turns 45. To celebrate Shaq, here are some fun facts about his super-sized life and career.
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Shaquille O'Neal Photo

Shaquille O'Neal turns 45 today. 

Since his early days as a basketball behemoth, former NBA superstar and current analyst Shaquille O'Neal has proven a larger-than-life figure as a rapper, wrestler and all-around Renaissance man.

Big Impression

Although he spent his early years in New Jersey, Shaq's path to NBA stardom gained a crucial foothold in Weildflecken, West Germany. It was there, where his Army drill sergeant stepfather was stationed, that he met LSU head basketball coach Dale Brown. After conducting a clinic, Brown was approached by a gangly 6’8” O'Neal, who asked for advice on how to strengthen his "lower extremities." When Brown asked how long he'd been in the service, the towering youngster replied, "I'm not a soldier, sir, I'm only 13." At which point Brown all but kicked down the door of the officers' quarters to find his dad, forging a relationship that gave him the inside track when Shaq became a prized high school recruit.

Shaquille O'Neal

Young Shaq and a cuddly kitty hit the court at Louisiana State University.

Easy Come, Easy Go

Shaq made nearly $300 million from NBA-related contracts alone over the course of his career, which barely would have covered his expenses had he continued his early pace. After being advanced his first million, he went out and splurged on three Mercedes (for himself and both parents) as well as a truckload of suits and bling, all in a span of about 45 minutes. And shortly after that, he learned some of the finer points of taxes, leading to the revelation that that he was already in debt, and that it was high time to bring in a financial adviser.

Music Man

Shaq was often criticized for taking time away from basketball to pursue other forms of entertainment (Kazaam, anyone?), but it can be argued that he had legitimate talent as a rapper. His first album, Shaq Diesel (1993), went platinum, and his second, Shaq Fu: Da Return (1994), was certified gold. His hip-hop career had run its course by the time of his sixth album, Shoot Pass Slam! (2006), but he proved he could still break out the rhymes with a takedown of old teammate/rival Kobe Bryant during a freestyle session in 2010. By then his musical evolution was well underway, as late that year he served as a guest conductor for the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall.

How Tweet it is

Basketball fans are probably aware of Shaq's avid Twitter use through his recent war of words with current NBA player JaVale McGee, but fewer likely know that his was the first account to be certified by the social media service. He joined in November 2008 after learning that an imposter had been tweeting under his name, and the company soon launched a verification process to protect its famous users. One of the first athletes to recognize the potential of social media, Shaq announced his retirement from basketball via Twitter in June 2011. He has since accumulated more than 13 million followers and cemented his place as an internet legend, notably by becoming the man who launched 1,000 GIFs.

Long Arm of the Law

With his extensive involvement in sports, business and the arts, you'd think Shaq wouldn't have time to protect the average citizen on the street, but that's exactly what he's done. The Big Nasty signed on a reserve officer with the Los Angeles Port Police after joining the Lakers in the late 1990s, and by 2005 he had also become an honorary deputy in Bedford County, Virginia and an honorary U.S. Deputy Marshal in Miami. After retiring, he added to his credentials by being sworn in as a deputy in Broward County, Georgia. Clearly influenced by his military upbringing and two uncles who served on the force, he has stated a desire to become a police chief or sheriff some day.

Meeting his Match

What article about Shaq's forays as a modern-day Renaissance man would be complete without mention of his wrestling career? A longtime fan, the Diesel served as the ringside enforcer for a WWE match in 2009, and in 2016 he made his debut at WrestleMania 32, the sport's flagship event. It was there he stoked a developing "feud" with fellow 7-foot behemoth Big Show, and the two were set to square off at WrestleMania 33 this April. Sadly, as of this publishing it appeared the match was a no-go, reportedly because of contract issues. Of course, we all know it’s really because Shaq has another symphony to conduct that day.