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Being an NBA star comes with plenty of pressure. While you’re playing a children’s game for a living, doing all of your work in the public eye certainly brings its challenges. Imagine trying to do your job knowing that every single mistake you make will be blown up, plastered all over social media, and critiqued by millions of fans. Doesn’t sound easy, right?

Believe it or not, there was a time when Shaquille O’Neal felt the pressure. After a game in New York, the center even told his father that he couldn’t handle the heat.

The next morning, though, everything changed. Shaq put in some work away from the court and learned what real pressure is. Here’s a hint: It’s not playing basketball for millions of dollars.

Shaquille O’Neal complained about pressure and then received some valuable perspective from his father


Shaquille O’Neal Credits Bill Russell With Stopping Him Being a ‘Spoiled Brat’

When you picture him winning NBA championships and joking around on national TV, it’s easy to imagine that Shaquille O’Neal doesn’t feel any pressure. There was a time, however, when the big man was overwhelmed by the moment.

“My father one day, after a game, I went home, and I said, ‘Hey man, I couldn’t handle the pressure in New York,'” O’Neal explained on The Big Podcast with Shaq. “He was upset. Takes me in the car early the next morning, and we watch a homeless family. Family that he used to take care of. He said, ‘I don’t ever want to hear you say that you can’t handle the pressure ever again. You spoiled, m-fing brat. You got a big house, you got cars, you fly private. I don’t want to ever hear that. Pressure is when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from.'”

As you might expect, that reality check made quite the difference for the big man.

“And, after that, I stopped complaining,” he continued. “Cause I got it good. And he said, ‘Push through it. Man up. I don’t ever want to hear you say that again.’ And then he made me get out. Said, ‘Get out.’ So I had to get out. Got the family an apartment, got them on their feet, made a few phone calls, the guy, you know, had a job, just got them on their feet. But that stuck with me.”

While it’s not 100% clear when this anecdote took place — based on Shaq’s wealth, it’s safe to assume he was in the NBA at that point — it’s easy to see how the lesson influenced his perspective. Beyond his comfort in the spotlight, O’Neal has been known to flex his financial muscles to help others out. From buying rings to leaving massive tips, the Diesel performs what he calls “random acts of Shaqness.”

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