NBA legend and basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal was a guest on “The Pivot Podcast” with Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder, and Fred Taylor. Shaq opened up about his divorce for the first time, and mistakes he made in his professional relationships with Penny Hardaway and the late Kobe Bryant.
“Big mistake in the Penny relationship, big mistake in the Kobe relationship,” said Shaq. “Horrible mistake in both marriages.”
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In 2011 Shaq and his then wife Shaunie O’Neal completed a divorce, and Shaq struggled to come to grips with the new reality. Once he accepted his mistakes led to the dissolution of the relationship, he began to move forward.
“I never talked about this and I’m glad you guys asked, but I was bad,” explained Shaq. “She was awesome and I was really bad. I wasn’t protecting her and I wasn’t protecting those vows. She did exactly what she was supposed to do.
“The best feeling was coming home and hearing five or six different voices. I was just being greedy. I had the perfect situation. Wife was finer than a mug. I had it all. I don’t make excuses. I know I messed up. I was lost. In a 76,000 square foot house by myself. Lost … I said to myself, ‘You’re not married, but you still need to provide for this family. Get your ass up and man up. What are you going to do next?’”
Shaq and Shaunie have four children together, including college basketball player Shareef O’Neal. Shareef most recently played at his father’s alma mater LSU, and is now in the NCAA transfer portal.
Shaq also opened up on his relationship with former teammate the late Kobe Bryant.
“I wish we could have communicated more, because I still have sleepless nights,” said O’Neal. “I was hit with a double whammy, because my sister passed away first, right before Kobe. I’m quick to say, I have to go do this podcast, I’ll call him later, and then never do it.
“I called my guy at the sheriff office, he confirmed it, and I started crying. I’m like goddamnit, I didn’t even holler at him. We did the sit-down that everyone was waiting for, and that’s the last time we talked. I didn’t get the number, I didn’t call him, I didn’t text him, and that still haunts me. All the sh-t we went through, we could have shook hands and put it aside. …I think about it all of the time, I have pictures of him in my house that I see and … I just can’t sleep.”
Shaq goes on to talk about meeting Penny Hardaway on the set of the movie “Blue Chips.” There was a clause in Shaq’s contract that he had to have three to four hours while on set where he could work out and stay in game shape for the upcoming season. It was during a game where he was being delivered deft passes by a skinny kid, and when he found out who it was Shaq went to the Orlando Magic front office and told them they had to draft Hardaway.
Of course Shaq and Penny were a great combo and one of the greatest “what if” stories in NBA history. They went to the NBA Finals in 1995 and were swept by the Houston Rockets, advanced to the conference finals the following year and got swept by the Chicago Bulls. Shaq left in the offseason amid jealousy between him and Hardaway and joined the Los Angeles Lakers.
When athletes are speaking with their peers as opposed to traditional media members, they open up in a way that is refreshing and very interesting. This episode of “The Pivot Podcast” is another example.