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Even if you aren’t a hardcore basketball fan, you’re probably familiar with Shaquille O’Neal. During his time on the court, the big man (literally) towered over the competition; in retirement, he’s become a prolific pitchman and a successful entrepreneur. No one, not even the Big Aristotle, makes it to the top of the mountain alone, though.

When he played for the LA Lakers, Shaquille O’Neal played under legendary head coach Phil Jackson. The Zen Master’s lessons weren’t limited to basketball, though. In fact, they helped make Shaq the businessman that he is today.

Shaquille O’Neal was one of basketball’s top big men

These days, conventional, back-to-the-basket big men have fallen out of favor; instead, athleticism reigns supreme. During his prime, however, Shaquille O’Neal was one of the most fearsome post players to ever hit the hardwood.

Shaq started dominating the competition in high school and continued that trend in college. At LSU, he averaged 21.6 points and 13.5 rebounds per game across three seasons; O’Neal also took home the 1990-91 AP Player of the Year crown before leaving campus.

The big man entered the 1992 NBA draft and joined the Orlando Magic as the first-overall pick. Once again, Shaq didn’t miss a beat; he claimed the Rookie of the Year crown without breaking a sweat and developed into a fearsome figure at both ends of the floor.

Team success, however, didn’t come easily, and the Magic couldn’t get over the hump. In 1996, O’Neal joined the Lakers in free agency, hoping to win a championship; he, of course, won three titles with Kobe Bryant before adding another ring with Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat.

Learning business lessons from Phil Jackson

While Shaquille O’Neal played for several head coaches during his career, he’s most remembered for his time with Phil Jackson on the LA Lakers. The big man, it seems, hasn’t forgotten his time with the Zen Master, either.

In a Forbes interview, Andy Frye asked Shaq if he applies any of Jackson’s lessons to his post-playing career. The big man highlighted a few key nuggets of wisdom that he still holds onto today.

“Yeah, he always taught us to think positive, and to see a maximization of your potential,” O’Neal explained. “For example, if I’m looking to open another 10 pizza stores, I’m thinking about not just the idea but realizing it in terms of the look and decor, putting in the neon lights and signs, and all the little things that makes it work and become super successful.”

Shaq also approached any potential issues just as Jackson taught him: with a positive mindset rather than in a panic.

“And also—don’t worry or think negative,” he continued. “If, say, one of your stores was flooded, you don’t freak out about shutting down and losing business for two weeks, but you look for where the problem is to fix it. Call the plumber, boom. Call someone else to re-paint, boom. Do what you need to do [to] get business going again. I think a lot of people go directly to panic mode.”

Shaquille O’Neal has become a massive success with an assist from Phil Jackson

During his NBA career, Shaquille O’Neal earned millions of dollars in salary. While he no longer hits the hardwood, he’s still capable of bringing in the big bucks.

In addition to his media work and countless endorsements, Shaq is also a prolific entrepreneur. He saved most of his playing salary and used it on investments rather than impulse buys; that strategy has allowed him to hold a stake in companies like Google, Lift, and Ring. He also tried to focus on fun wherever possible, opening Papa John’s, 5 Guys, and Krispy Kreme franchises, among his other ventures.

“Phil would talk about waiting to see what happens and then reacting to it,” O’Neal concluded. “And he always talked about facing the moment of truth. And when you face the moment of truth, then you act.”

Based on his $400 million net worth, it’s safe to assume that Shaquille O’Neal followed Phil Jackson’s advice to a tee.


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