Shaquille O’Neal’s Famous ‘Dunkman’ Logo Stems From His Father’s Harsh Words and a Journeyman Center

Shaquille O’Neal made a career of furious finishes and unleashing unprecedented force on rims and backboards around the country, not to mention opposing big men. His powerful style and two-handed, legs-up hang on the rim birthed the famous “Dunkman” logo. But “Dunkman” wouldn’t have existed if not for the Sarge… and Rony Seikaly.

Despite his massive physical frame, Shaq used to fancy himself as a guy who showed finesse around the rim. However, he changed his style at the demands of his stepfather and looked to Seikaly for inspiration on how to finish with authority.

Shaquille O’Neal’s “Dunkman” logo is one of the most famous in sneaker history

Shaquille O’Neal began his NBA career with a lucrative contract from Reebok, though that partnership isn’t the reason his shoes became so prominent.

O’Neal got multiple signature shoes with Reebok, but he walked away from the company after an encounter with a woman who complained about the price of the shoes. He formed his own Shaq line under the pretenses of making an affordable sneaker.

Years later, the choice to branch off and do his own thing appears to have paid big dividends for O’Neal. He said back in 2016 that the Shaq line sold over 120 million pairs at Walmart.

The most famous part of the sneaker line is the “Dunkman” logo, which could practically be seen as the yin to “Jumpman’s” yang given the contrasting styles of O’Neal and Michael Jordan. The logo symbolized Shaq’s dominance on the court.

However, that logo might not ever have come to pass if not for a stern message from The Diesel’s stepfather and an NBA center born in Lebanon.

O’Neal copied Rony Seikaly’s style after his stepfather urged him to stop playing like a guard

Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal strikes the Dunkman pose
Shaquille O’Neal strikes the “Dunkman” pose during a game against the New York Knicks | Ron Antonelli/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

Shaq learned the hard way not to mess around when he had the ball close to the rim.

O’Neal told Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson on the All The Smoke podcast that he got chewed out by his stepfather, Phillip Harrison, after attempting a finger roll during a high school game. According to Shaq (h/t Syracuse.com), Harrison walked on the court and took O’Neal to the side, telling him to play like Shaquille O’Neal and not Magic Johnson.

Harrison’s words stoked a sense of rage within O’Neal. He wanted to send his own message to his stepfather. He’d get some imagination courtesy of former Syracuse and NBA center Rony Seikaly.

“So then I would go home, and he’s making me watch college games, and I’m watching Syracuse play. Sherman Douglas throws it to Rony Seikaly, and he dunks it, but he’s getting his legs up. I said OK. So the next game, my father was there, and I’m dunking and getting my legs up. What I learned from that is people started (hunching over). I said, ‘Ahh, OK. I got something there.’ So that’s when I started dunking, dunking, dunking, and dominating.”

–Shaquille O’Neal, All The Smoke

Seikaly had a respectable career. He played 11 seasons in the NBA, averaging 14.7 points and 9.5 rebounds while capturing the Most Improved Player Award during the 1989-90 campaign. That’s a solid resume, to be sure. Still, there’s an element of humor to the unassuming Seikaly being somewhat responsible for an iconic emblem such as the “Dunkman.”

Interestingly, Shaq and Seikaly have even more in common than how they finished at the rim.

Shaq and Seikaly have both taken to making music

Did Shaq copy Seikaly’s style yet again in retirement?

Aside from his role as an entrepreneur and a spot on Inside the NBA, O’Neal can occasionally be seen touring the country and putting work on the dials. His DJ sets have grown in prominence recently, though Seikaly might have been in the game first.

Seikaly’s pivot to producing house music made him something of a legend in Miami, where he played six seasons with the Heat. He is still one of the more reputable DJs in the country and tours internationally.

Maybe Shaq should try to tour with Seikaly. If nothing else, he might owe his DJ counterpart royalties, seeing as Seikaly is the inspiration for the two-handed Shaq thunder jams that birthed the “Dunkman” logo.

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