NBA

Does Shaq Really Have a Ph.D.?

Shaquille O’Neal acts, raps, analyzes basketball on TNT, invests in dozens of companies, and even owns a partial stake in the Sacramento Kings. On top of it all, however, Shaq is a lifelong student. Many NBA fans might not know that O’Neal is the proud recipient of a doctoral degree., and his commitment to education is a sticking point for him.

Shaquille O’Neal goes to college

Shaq initially followed the path that so many others do when he attended Louisiana State University. Although he valued his education, he knew he faced a lucrative NBA career as the consensus No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. O’Neal began at LSU in 1989 and, according to him, knew he wanted to finish with his degree no matter what.

Three years later, he left for the NBA and put his educational goals on hold. He wanted to get his degree despite his status as an NBA superstar and used his parents as motivation. “I promised my parents I’d do it, I promised myself I’d do it,” O’Neal said of earning his degree. “It took eight years, it should have taken six or seven. I had some other engagements.”

That eight-year wait ended in 2000 when O’Neal famously missed a game against the Vancouver Grizzlies to attend his college graduation from LSU. “Here he is, almost 30, and he’s graduating from college,” Phil Jackson said per ABC News. “He’s persevered to do it. We wish him well in his graduation, it’s a wonderful thing to do.”

Not every player needs to finish their education. LeBron James hasn’t even gone to college. O’Neal, however, wanted his degree and wouldn’t stop with his bachelor’s. 

Becoming ‘Dr. Shaq’ 

Shaquille O'Neal receives his Ph.D. in education from Barry University in 2012
Shaquille O’Neal receives his ED.d in education from Barry University in 2012 | Vallery Jean/Getty Images

Five years after receiving his degree and fresh off his tumultuous ending with the Lakers, O’Neal received another diploma. He got his master’s degree in business thanks to the University of Phoenix’s online opportunities. Shaq received a degree in business administration, which should shock no one who’s followed his career.

While several big names get honorary degrees from a variety of schools, O’Neal earned his just like any other grad school student. He took what he learned and applied it to his craft away from the court, but he didn’t stop there. 

Attendees at a 2012 convocation for Barry University saw one particularly large graduate in their midst. Recently retired from the NBA, O’Neal finished his educational goal and received his doctorate in business along with 1,100 other students. It put O’Neal in an exclusive club of pro athletes with doctorates. He is not technically a Ph.D, but received his Ed.D (Doctor of Education).

O’Neal passes it on

His love for education does not stop there, however. Now a father to college-aged kids, O’Neal wants to instill his love of learning into the next generation of his family. Referencing the work he saw Miami Heat owner Micky Arison give his son, O’Neal wants his kids to learn the value of hard work and education.

O’Neal stated that he wants his kids to get at least two degrees before they dip into his money. This way, they can invest their finances similarly to how he does while also learning valuable life lessons. 

Off the court, O’Neal has had about as much success as he did on it. In a world where athletes are often lost outside of their games, O’Neal showed there is a path for even the largest superstars to expand their expertise.