In her new book, Shaquille O'Neal's mother, Lucille O'Neal, discusses her personal struggles and victories as she worked to raise a son who would later become one of professional basketball's biggest stars.
Check out an excerpt of the book below, then head to the "GMA" Library for other great reads.
One of the funniest things I ever did happened when I began helping Shaquille furnish his first home in Orlando. As mothers, we don't always have the chance to do that with our children once they become adults, so I was very excited.
Oftentimes when my son moved to a new place or city, I'd help set him up in his home. One time I won't forget is when Shaquille arranged for me to have a driver—a limo driver, that is, to get me around for my shopping. On the day that I wanted to shop for the basics for my son's home, like glasses, plates, silverware, and an iron—because he never seemed to think of getting an iron—I asked the driver to escort me to the nearest Kmart in the area. We rolled up with pride in the limo and parked the long, black car on the side of the store. I guess the limo driver was used to just waiting in the car while his patrons did whatever they had to do. But not that day! I told him to grab a cart and take one part of the store while I took the other. I'd pick the glasses and plates, while he could pick the silverware and trash cans. I'm sure that driver had no idea what his day would bring when he woke up that morning, but Kmart is ridiculously big. I needed to make the most of my day!
Along with shopping for Shaquille's house, I also organized and arranged our move from Texas to Florida, which involved enrolling the children in new schools and helping them get adapted to their different and much improved standard of living. To add to my joy, Shaquille gifted me with my first car in my own name. Who'd have thought I'd be in my mid-thirties before I'd own a car?
By far, the most important aspect of my son's first year was my decision to go on the road with him during the season. As a family, we'd all agreed that whenever Shaquille entered the league, I would head out on the road with him to make sure he settled in okay. This would be a huge sacrifice for us all, but we knew it was necessary. People to this day ask how the family, particularly my youngest children, handled my absence during that time. At the time, they ranged from twelve to fourteen years old. I tell them I couldn't have done it if Phil had not been such a great father. Also, my other children understood why I had to accompany Shaquille. I would have done exactly the same thing for them. My oldest child may have appeared to be this big, overpowering athlete who was able to conquer anything in his sight, but all I saw was my baby, and there was no way I was leaving him to fend for himself in that big new world. I'd met many a wolf in sheep's clothing during the recruiting process, and they scared me half to death. There was no telling what they'd do to my child.
Little did I know then that in the months and years ahead, I would be the one who would receive the education of a lifetime. In fact, a lesson in "big balling and shot calling" started before Shaquille played his first game. After going most of my life barely able to make ends meet, I had a hard time believing or accepting our new financial windfall. Unfortunately, others didn't quite share my problem, and many of them spent my son's money with reckless abandon. On the other hand, I was still so plagued by worries that this dream world we'd been swept into would end abruptly somehow, that I cautioned against any large purchases Shaquille had in mind.
Shaquille has always had a good head on his shoulders for business, much like his grandfather Hilton. He was never one to throw away his money on frivolous things, but now he was a part of a different world; a brand new fraternity of sorts, where fast living and big spending were the norm. He was also now living in the national and international spotlight, with his smiling face appearing on billboards, city buses, and T-shirts. I didn't know what effect that would have on his young, eighteen-year-old mind. Yes, I was confident in the values we'd instilled in him while he was a child, but no matter how great your parenting techniques are, outside influences can be oh-so-enticing. They are never far away, waiting for the opportunity to sneak in and take over.