His work as one of the most dominant low-post players in NBA history rightfully earned Shaquille O’Neal accolades, culminating with induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Scoring more than 28,000 points and winning three All-Star Game and three NBA Finals MVP Awards also assured Shaq a lifetime of recognition even before he began working on TV as a basketball analyst and pitching pizzas for Papa John’s.
Surprisingly, that recognition has made dating more difficult.
Charles Barkley says Shaquille O’Neal is ugly
Coming out of college as the No. 1 selection in the 1992 NBA Draft instantly qualified O’Neal as one the country’s most eligible bachelors. That label remained for a decade as he racked up huge numbers on the basketball court, first with the Orlando Magic and then the Los Angeles Lakers.
Finally, O’Neal settled down and married Shaunie Nelson in December 2002. Together, they had four children. However, Nelson filed for divorce in September 2007. She subsequently withdrew the papers after reconciling with the 7-foot-1 center, but Nelson ended their relationship by re-filing for divorce in 2009.
O’Neal has been a dating free agent since, though he was linked romantically to reality TV figure Nicole Alexander and later model Laticia Rolle.
Will O’Neal ever settle down and marry again? Perhaps, but fellow Hall of Fame inductee Charles Barkley says his TNT colleague has a significant hurdle to overcome: He’s ugly, and that’s always been the case.
While supposedly breaking down highlights during the Atlanta Hawks- Milwaukee Bucks series in late June, Berkley went off on a tangent. In the midst of talking about parallels between the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant, Barkley stopped mid-thought with an observation:
“First time I saw Shaq in person, I said, ‘Man, No. 1, damn, he’s ugly.’”
Shaquille O’Neal had issues on Tinder
At 7-1 and 325 pounds, O’Neal isn’t the type who can just casually sidle up to a woman at a nightclub without it feeling like a bit of an imposition or attracting the notice of everyone else at the bar. In light of that, the retired NBA great told the Full Send podcast he’s tried online approaches. The results have been mixed.
“People out there (are) paying money for these dating apps,” O’Neal observed. “Instagram and TikTok are the best way to meet girls. I tried to get on Tinder, but they didn’t believe it was me.”
O’Neal said a typical conversation on Tinder began with him inviting a woman to meet. Rejection followed quickly.
“’I don’t know you, you’re not Shaq. Shaq would never do this,’” he said, recalling failed attempts. “I was like, ‘Call me. Call me, this is my number.’ (They would say) ‘This isn’t Shaq. Shaq would never be here.'”
Shaq offers tips on the best cities to look
It’s not as though O’Neal expects anyone he meets to bow before him. In fact, Shaq conceded that the FAA would have ruled it a pilot error after recovering the black boxes from some of his failed relationships.
“I was an idiot,” he said on the podcast. “My first girlfriend, my girl’s mother, she was perfect. I messed that up. And Miles’ mother, Shaunie, I messed that up.
“I was more of an idiot than I was a true man.”
Asked about which cities are home to the most attractive women, a reasonable question for a man who played for six teams and regularly visited a lot of big markets, O’Neal pointed to some major North American cities.
“Toronto and Dallas. And New York and Miami,” he said. “Toronto is off the chain.”
With so many candidates there, surely there are some women who can put up with a bit of ugly.