Becoming one of the greatest and most dominant players ever was no easy feat, but that is what Shaquille O'Neal managed to do. But he himself knows and admits he wouldn't have made it if it wasn't for his stepfather Phillip 'Sarge' Harisson.
Raising him tough
Even though Shaq's biological father abandoned him young, he didn't miss a father figure. A soldier by the name of Phillip Harisson met his mother and filled those shoes, raising the legendary big man to be the greatest version of himself. His methods were rough and definitely not easy, but nowadays, O'Neal admits it was exactly what he needed.
In a recent interview with Logan Paul on his podcast, Shaq shared an example of how "Sarge" used the mistakes of fellow athletes to teach him lessons and put fear into his bones:
"Every time an athlete did something crazy, I got in trouble. When I was 12,13 years old, my father came home one day. He was crying. He said:'If I ever catch you messing with coke, I'ma kill you!'...He wasn't playing. It was a guy by the name of Len Bias. He was gonna be the #1 pick, and my father cried like it was my brother. Whenever people made mistakes, he would use those stories to teach me."
Shaquille O'Neal, IMPAULSIVE
What could have been
The story of Len Bias is quite possibly one of the saddest and biggest what-if stories the NBA has ever seen. The #2 pick of the Boston Celtics in the 1986 Draft passed away the day after from a cocaine overdose, shocking the entire basketball world. For someone so young and talented, it was unprecedented to see a situation like this happen, as it affected and touched a lot of people.
Shaq's stepfather was one of those who really took the news to heart. He probably saw his stepson in him and imagined how the same thing could happen to Shaq once he becomes one of the top picks in the Draft. So Harisson took the opportunity to teach O'Neal a valuable lesson and ensure he doesn't make a life-costly mistake once he comes to fame.
Thankfully, Sarge's words were engraved in Shaq's memory, as he remembers numerous lessons and lives by them to this day. That's why he became such a great basketball player and an even better human being.