Weekly Sports Writer: Cleavie Wonder
visit Cleavie's blog
It's all water under the bridge now that Shaquille O'Neal has made over $300,000,000 in contract money and won 4 NBA championships but can you imagine how difficult it was to raise Shaq as a youngster? From the minute go he was outgrowing clothes and shoes every 3 months. As he got older he was bigger than all the other kids and they teased him for it. Shaq's parents had to temper his hurt feelings and bitterness early. The last thing they needed was an angry giant out of control. What must it have been like for their son to outgrow them in physical stature by the time he was in the 4th grade? I'm sure feeding Shaq on a modest salary was no easy task either. He could probably put down a dozen eggs for breakfast by the time he was 12.
Then there's the social awkwardness that comes with being that big. Most things aren't built for people over 6'2 and especially not for kids. Joysticks, bicycles, and swings don't come in Shaq size. In addition his body was growing faster than his coordination could keep up with so he was always clumsy and breaking things. Most of the time (and even still today) he didn't know his own strength. Sports was the only thing that could save him and after his sophomore season in high school every college in America was shamelessly recruiting him to play basketball by offering cash, gifts, and women. What more could a teenage boy ask for?
How hard must it have been for Shaq's parents to keep him grounded and level headed while the rest of the world was giving him whatever he wanted whenever he wanted? When no one but his parents would tell him no. How hard must it have been to discipline a 7'1 300 pound teenager on his way to becoming a multi millionaire? How hard must it have been to watch their son getting used and exploited for his basketball abilities by LSU? These sacrifices were made out of love and unconditional, but let's not discount the growing pains that came with the success. Athletes have different problems than your average person, but they still have problems. Shaq was fortunate to have parents that were in a position to guide him through the trials and tribulations of life as a giant. He's better for it.