Shareef O’Neal was just 6 months old when his father, Shaquille O’Neal, teamed with Kobe Bryant to win the first of three championships together for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The elder O’Neal then had his No. 34 jersey retired by LA in 2013 and was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.
Yet when young O’Neal showed up at the Lakers’ practice facility on Tuesday for a pre-draft workout, it wasn’t with his dad’s blessing.
“We kind of bump into that process,” O’Neal, 22, said in a video news conference. “He wanted me to stay in school. I wanted to improve through it. He knows I work with teams. But I’m not going to lie, we haven’t talked about it. I’m a bit fair He didn’t do any practice before the draft; he just went straight to the [Orlando Magic]so it’s a different version.
“So he didn’t want me to do that, and I know he probably doesn’t want me to say that, but sorry. We’re both adults, we’ll move on.”
O’Neal is coming off a tough college career, during which he played just 37 games in three seasons with UCLA and LSU.
His averages of 2.6 points on 40.5% from the floor, 3.0 rebounds and 0.4 blocks pale in comparison to his father who had 21.6 points on 61% shooting, 13.5 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game for the LSU Tigers before going No. 1 in Orlando in the 1992 NBA Draft.
The prospect draft pointed out that production cannot be judged in direct comparison after undergoing open-heart surgery as a rookie and later dealing with foot and ankle injuries that sabotaged his last two seasons at LSU. .
“I feel like he and I have a whole different story now,” O’Neal said when asked if he felt any pressure from his father’s legacy. “I went through some things that he didn’t go through. He was the No. 1 pick in the draft. I kind of had to grind to get here. I had to grind a lot. I had to go through certain things over the past four years — foot injuries, heart surgeries — and I don’t really seem to be in his shadow.”
He credits Lakers athletic trainer Shane Besedick, who previously worked with UCLA, for saving his life by discovering the right abnormal coronary artery problem during their time with the Bruins.
“I know it will always be there, the comparison,” O’Neal continued. “Every kid is going to be compared to their dad doing the same thing as them. So that’s going to be there. I don’t mind.”
O’Neal – a power forward at 6ft 10in and 215lbs compared to his father who was playing center at 7-1 and north of 300lbs – said he was determined to stay in the draft after participated in the G League elite prospect camp last month.
“I felt like in college I didn’t have enough opportunities. I didn’t feel like myself in college,” he said. “[The invite] kind of opened a lot of doors for me. … I feel like it really brought me back and showed a little bit what I can do. And once I started getting calls from teams to practice, I was like, ‘Man, this is what I want to do.’ I mean, I’m here, it’s right in front of me, so go ahead. So I kept working.”
However, the decision was not well received by her father.
“He didn’t like that idea at all,” O’Neal said. “It sucks he doesn’t like the idea but I’m a grown man, I’m 22, I can make my own decisions. It was right in front of my face. I’m not backing down. I’m going to go the look up if I see it That’s just how I’m built I take everything the same I had my heart surgery the same Being cleared was right in front of me Being healthy was right in front of me, and I went for it. I don’t back down from anyone. I know he’s an NBA legend, I know he’s my dad, but it was right in front of me, I had to go get him. So whether he likes it or not, it’s not really going to stop me from doing what I want to do.”
The Lakers hold no picks in the draft on Thursday — no first or second round — but have still held a handful of draft practice sessions over the past two weeks to see the prospects up close. They’re hoping to buy a pick on Thursday night and want to add undrafted young talent, like they did with Austin Reaves last season, sources told ESPN.