“I’m A Grown Man … I Can Make My Own Decisions” | Shareef O’Neal Butts Heads With Helicopter Dad Shaq Over Pre-Draft Workout

(Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)

A fictional character of a very popular television show once said “you can only treat a young man like a boy for so long before they buck.” When many young boys reach a certain age there is a tendency to want to prove their “manhood.”

Such is the case of 22-year-old Shareef O’Neal, son of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal. The younger O’Neal attended a pre-draft workout on Tuesday with the Los Angeles Lakers, the team his father led to three straight titles, and Shaq wasn’t pleased that his son chose this option.

“He didn’t like that idea at all,” O’Neal said. “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. 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.”

By all accounts Shaq wanted Shareef to return to school and continue to develop his game. Shareef has had a very limited college career. He played two seasons at LSU (dad’s alma mater), was at UCLA prior to that, and de-committed from the University of Arizona as a high school senior.

To be fair Shareef has dealt with injuries and had open heart surgery, all of which delayed his development as a basketball player.

Still, through 37 college games in three years O’Neal averaged 2.6 points, and 3.1 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-10 athletic forward has the body for the NBA but it is unclear what kind of production he might have.

“We kind of bump heads about this process,” O’Neal, 22, said on a video news conference. “He wanted me to stay in school. I wanted to better myself through this. 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.”

It’s clear Shareef doesn’t see college as the road that will help him get to the NBA. For whatever reason the opportunities weren’t there for him.

Taking advantage of pre-draft workouts is likely his only road to the league. It is highly unlikely he will be drafted on Thursday night, so showing up to these workouts and letting teams see what he can do might keep him top of mind.

Shareef participated in the G League Elite prospect camp last month, and whatever transpired there made it clear to him that this would be his path to the league.

Shaq was a sure thing coming out of LSU, Shareef is anything but. As the younger O’Neal said, he is his own man, and if he’s going to make it he’s going to do it his way.