Retired NBA All Star and TNT’s Inside The NBA studio analyst Shaquille O’Neal has been running through headlines the last couple of days. People Magazine reports that Shaq will make a run at becoming a police sheriff in 2020. Earlier this week, the iconic NBA center announced that he’ll be the cover athlete for next season’s NBA 2K18.
Dude is blessed, dude is talented and The Big Aristotle has always been ahead of his time!
All homage goes to the man upstairs and also to great parenting. His late step-father, Army Sergeant Philip Harrison and his living mother, Lucille O’Neal raised him and his three other siblings: Latifah, Ayesha and Jamal.
In the spirit of Mother’s Day, this Sunday, Lucille O’Neal joined me on episode #56 of Scoop B Radio.
On the show, Momma O’Neal, an author and a motivational speaker, described her most memorable Mother’s Day gift; a cutting board, that Shaq made with the inscription that reads, ‘Lu’s Kitchen.’
“I still have that cutting board,” she said. “And the reason I love it is because when we get in the kitchen together and I cook fried chicken and macaroni and cheese, that cutting board always comes to my mind. It was one of my first Mother’s Day gifts.”
Momma O’Neal was a hard-working mom when her kids were growing up. She discusses being a strong black woman and the sacrifices she made as a responsible parent:
“Biggest sacrifice was maybe not having the money to pay a bill or having money to pay a bill and used it when my children had a need for it. I made many sacrifices but those are some of the ones where I would just put them first, I always put them first. Still do sometimes. But I don’t look at it as a sacrifice, I just am happy I’m able to do it. You know when you become a mother it’s no longer me first, it’s family first.”
She even detailed her Odessa Chambliss Quality of Life Fund, a fund in honor of her mother who passed away April 2, 1996:
“She had a great legacy, she loved people; a strong woman of faith and she just had, I mean tremendous love for everybody. So we put our heads together and came up with the Odessa Chambliss quality of life fund and we’re raising money for nursing scholarships out of the resources and the money that we have raised since 1996 we were able to get a building named in her honor on the campus of the great Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach.”
The next generation of O’Neal’s are entering the basketball world. Lucille O’Neal is a grandmother of fifteen grandchildren. `Her grandson, Shareef O’Neal, Shaq’s son, recently committed to the University of Arizona. When asked whether Shaq was as talented as Shareef was at that age, Momma O’Neal replied: “I have to say yes.”
She furthered that assertion by stating: “Because I’ve watched the development and it’s something that I’ve seen before. The world is seeing it because of the way that information gets out. But I’ve seen the progress, it’s in his genes he has a special gift. And he and Shaquille, I believe will be playing different positions. Shaquille was a power player in the middle of the paint, but Shareef is a finesse player and he can also play in the paint, so he’s good and his dad was good too.”
Momma O’Neal shared something that was a shocker: she played basketball herself. Everybody talks about how great of a hooper her son was, but apparently, she checked the rock at the center position, also. “Because I’m tall so I played the middle,” she said.
She said her game wasn’t bad. “Nice defensive game not concentrating too much on the offense, but played defense because we were only able to go half court. The game is much different for women today.”
She added: “When I played basketball it was so quiet because we were only able to play half court. Now they have the WNBA where the women play as well as the men and they dominate the game at every position. I never played that level.”
It takes a village to raise a child and an even bigger village to help maintain an athlete’s success once they have arrived, the O’Neal family is basking in plenty of success these days. This past year, Shaq was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, had his jersey retired by the Miami Heat and a statue of Shaq was erected outside of Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Staples Center Statue is a second in his honor; his first was built at his college alma mater, LSU. When asked about which recent accolades stood out the most, she paused for a minute and marveled.
“When we leave this earth we want to leave a legacy and those two statues are reminders of the legacy of Shaquille O’Neal,” she said.
She admitted to being impressed with the statue at Staples Center:
“The couple that made that statue they did a phenomenal job. It’s beautiful, it is detailed all the way down to the tattoos. And I really am I amazed at that one because it’s not the final but to end a career after so many years and have that monument it’s something special about that. The ultimate gift that every basketball player wants is to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, but to get a statue oh my it’s something. I don’t have a word for that, so out of all of that I guess it’s those two, the one at LSU, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it but it’s beautiful as well.”
Lastly, Momma O’Neal is fair, but she’s also honest. That’s what mothers are supposed to do. Earlier this season, the Golden State Warriors’ JaVale McGee, (who by the way has been playing inspired basketball this season) and Shaq got into a war of words that found their way via Twitter and on the set of TNT’s Inside The NBA’s Shaqtin’ A Fool segment.
As per Rolling Stone Magazine: While many believed O’Neal had finally taken it too far – The Mercury News’ Marcus Thompson II wrote about the reasons O’Neal was out of line – it wasn’t until Momma O’Neal, stepped in that he realized it was time to put an end to their long-standing feud.
“I have orders from the top to leave it alone,” Shaq told ESPN’s The Undefeated. “No, [not NBA commissioner Adam Silver]. My mama. Just say Shaq’s mom, called him, told him, ‘Stop this silliness. Leave him alone.’ So that’s the end of the beef”
What in the world did she say? “Well the conversations that my son and I have, I really want to keep confidential,” Lucille O’Neal told me on Scoop B Radio.
“But what I encouraged him to do was let it go because a war of words can go on forever. I mean it can go on a long time and some things are better left unsaid. So there had to be a cutoff point and I knew it was time so I encouraged him to just let it go. Brandon when I was growing up we used to say sticks and stones can break your bones but words will never hurt you that is really not true, because words can hurt you. So with the war of words going on both of them were hurt so it was just time to let that go.”
Sounds like wise counsel.
Shifting gears: it’s holiday time. Mother’s Day is on Sunday. What are holiday dinners like in the O’Neal household?
Take us on home, Momma O’Neal:
“Okay for Christmas we have a lot of fruit and nuts because we love fruit and nuts,” she said.
“Turkey, collard greens, potato salad , sweet potato pie , rice , macaroni and cheese, cake, all of those things that we really don’t need but we enjoy because Christmas and Easter those are special days. So we just eat what we like. We put aside whether or not it’s good for us. We just have what we like and if we can get something a little different if you come to visit we ask you to bring one of your favorite family dishes. But for the most part we sit back we eat, we laugh, and we get to know one another all over again. Hopefully a day will come when I can be in one place with all of my grandchildren and their parents and we can just take a nice family photo, because we’re scattered. I got grandkids in Texas, grandkids in California, and Grandkids here but my dream is to be in one place with all of them so I can take a nice family portrait.”
Sounds like a plan to me! Lucille O’Neal is about family. As the matriarch of her family, she genuinely embodies that. Good food, good advice and great conversation; who can beat that?
Happy Mother’s Day, Momma Lucille O’Neal!