Shaquille O’Neal Dominated in the NBA but Sometimes Relied on 2 Massive Celebrities for Extra Motivation: ‘We’re Really Good Friends’

Whenever basketball fans argue about who the NBA’s GOAT is, Michael Jordan and LeBron James are probably the two most mentioned players. However, someone else might have actually been the most dominant, even if they aren’t considered the GOAT: Shaquille O’Neal.

Shaq was an unstoppable force in the paint and would bully defenders down low, using his 7-foot-1, muscle-filled frame to do so with relative ease. Despite that dominance, he sometimes needed extra motivation whenever he wasn’t quite playing up to his lofty standards. O’Neal often looked for that extra push during those games by turning to a couple of massive celebrities, Snoop Dogg and B-Real, as it appears they both held the NBA icon accountable.

Shaq played in front of various celebrities during his NBA career

Shaq played in front of some massive stars on a regular basis throughout his career, especially during his eight seasons on the Los Angeles Lakers. His powerful dunks and imposing presence in the paint had box-office appeal, so everyone wanted to watch him put on a show.

“I used to see all my favorite actors and actresses,” O’Neal said in a recent interview with Sportscasting for his and The General’s upcoming partnership with Black Entrepreneurs Day. “It was my job, my duty to show off for them. Look, every boy wants to have a hot actress girlfriend or wife, so maybe if I put on a show maybe she’ll send somebody to get my phone number or something. But I seen them all; we definitely brought them out.”

The list of stars O’Neal played in front of can likely fill up a Hollywood phone book (do they still have those?), and he even admitted on a September 2021 episode of The Kelly Clarkson Show that he actually called a timeout during a game because he saw Halle Berry in the stands.

Whenever he wanted motivation, though, the Hall of Famer looked to two specific celebrities.

Shaquille O’Neal relied on Snoop Dogg and B-Real for motivation

NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal during his Lakers tenure in 2002.
Shaquille O’Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers before a game against the Washington Wizards on April 2, 2002. | G Fiume/Getty Images

Rappers Snoop Dogg and B-Real are massive Lakers fans, so Shaq — who won three titles for the Purple and Gold — likely brought them plenty of joy during his days in LA.

But there were some nights O’Neal didn’t have his best stuff, and they certainly let him know it.

“Snoop Dogg and B-Real always stayed on me, like really,” O’Neal said. “…If I wasn’t rebounding or [was] missing free throws, they’d always just get up and make sure I see them; they’d be like (give him a look of discontentment). So, we’re really good friends, Snoop Dogg and B-Real from Cypress Hill; we laugh about it now.”

O’Neal added that “sometimes you need” that extra motivation.

“Sometimes you need people that you honor and respect to let you know, ‘Hey, step it up. … We’re trying to win a championship,’” he said.

More times than not, Shaq stepped it up, and it resulted in him becoming a massive star himself.

Shaquille O’Neal’s dominance helped him become a star himself

What’s funny about O’Neal relying on celebrities for motivation is it, in turn, helped him maybe even become a bigger star than they are, as he’s now one of the most famous humans to ever live.

Shaq not only dominated on the basketball court by earning 15 All-Star selections and an MVP award, scoring the eighth-most points in NBA history, and ultimately winning four championships (three with the Lakers and one with Miami Heat), but he has also had a ton of off-court success.

The No. 1 overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft has appeared in countless commercials and even has shoe and clothing lines. He also starred in his own movie, Kazaam, and is now on TNT’s Inside the NBA. It’s hard to find any celebrities, even Snoop Dogg and B-Real, who can match O’Neal’s level of popularity.

All in all, Shaq’s NBA dominance helped lay the groundwork for his path to stardom. But on those nights he didn’t play his best, he had other celebrities who held him accountable.

Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference

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