Shaquille O’Neal spent nearly two decades in the NBA, where he became an all-time great. O’Neal‘s pathway almost saw him explore the route of playing football instead. However, the NBA Hall of Famer revealed that former Atlanta Hawks big man Jon Koncak played a pivotal role in pushing him to pursue a basketball career.
Shaquille O’Neal became one of the NBA’s most dominant players
O’Neal played 19 NBA seasons where he established himself as one of the greatest players in league history.
In his prime, the star big man became a dominant force behind his imposing stature and size. His explosive physicality and skill in the low post made him an unstoppable offensive factor.
O’Neal racked up numerous accolades, such as earning four NBA titles and three NBA Finals MVP awards, being selected to 15 All-Star games and 14 All-NBA teams, won a regular-season MVP award, and received three All-Defensive Team nods. He also had his jersey retired with the LA Lakers, Miami Heat, and Orlando Magic.
All that earned him a first-ballot induction into the Hall of Fame, further cementing his legacy. However, before he stepped onto the NBA hardwood, another factor led O’Neal to leave his football aspirations behind.
Shaquille O’Neal ditched his football dreams after seeing 1 NBA player’s massive contract
Before O’Neal ventured into pursuing a basketball career, he held a significant interest in playing football.
The four-time NBA champion played football throughout his childhood, but his plans switched once he began to dominate the high school basketball scene. One of those factors that led him to move on from those aspirations was seeing Jon Koncak receive a massive contract.
“I actually started out playing football,” O’Neal said during an interview on The Dan Patrick Show in 2015. “I was a hell of a tight end. As you know, I have wonderful hands, my hands are impeccable, and I like to punish people. But then a guy your size, hit me in my knee one day, I was all bummed out, and my dream came true. I was sitting on the couch and Jon Koncak signs for $15 million for three years. I was thinking, ‘If I can make $5 million doing the basketball thing, I think I am going to switch up now…true story.”
Koncak’s contract figures differed from O’Neal’s recollection as he inked a six-year deal worth $13.2 million with the Atlanta Hawks. The big man received the contract in 1989 after the Hawks matched the offer he garnered from the Detroit Pistons. Koncak struggled to live up to expectations as he averaged 4.6 points and 5.0 rebounds in his 10-year tenure with the Hawks.
Meanwhile, O’Neal’s story does have some lingering question marks as he was already a freshman at LSU when Koncak inked his then-massive contract. Nonetheless, it’s hard to argue that he wasn’t further motivated to pursue an NBA career after seeing the money that players were starting to make.
Continues domination as a successful businessman
O’Neal‘s dominance on the basketball court led him to accumulate $286.3 million in career contract earnings.
However, his financial success hasn’t stopped there as he’s become a tremendous businessman in retirement. O’Neal has worked out endorsement deals with numerous companies such as IcyHot, Buick, The General Auto Insurance, Macy’s, Zales, Arizona Beverage Co, Papa John’s, Epson Printers, and Carnival Cruise.
He’s also become heavily involved in stock investments with several companies that only grow his financial wealth. His decision to pursue an NBA career set the table for an extremely stable life well after his playing days.