Shaquille O’Neal Has Never Forgotten His Newark Roots

Nobody’s more of a giant on and off the court than this Essex County native.

Illustration of Shaquille O'Neal

Illustration: Raul Arias

Long before Shaquille O’Neal became an NBA superstar, the Big Aristotle was born in Newark. While the 7-foot-1 center lived in Germany and Texas before attending Louisiana State University, he has credited Newark’s Boys & Girls Clubs of America for giving him a safe place to hone his skills on the court.

The first overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft, O’Neal went on to enjoy a 19-year career with the Magic, Lakers, Heat, Suns, Cavaliers and Celtics. A Hall of Famer, MVP and four-time champ, he and the late Kobe Bryant formed one of the game’s great dynamic duos in Los Angeles, though they clashed at times.

With an unmistakable frame, O’Neal has found as much success off the court as on it. He’s been a spokesperson for brands like Wheaties and Icy Hot, appeared in numerous films, and released multiple rap albums, cementing him status as a pop-culture icon.

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O’Neal now works as an analyst for TNT’s NBA programming, often providing comical commentary on the sport he once dominated.

He also hasn’t forgotten where he came from. He has tried his hand at real estate—among other business ventures—developing multiple projects in New Jersey, including ones in Newark. In 2022, he DJed on the streets of Jersey City before Flo Rida put on a Fourth of July concert.

O’Neal was inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2009.

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