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Shaquille O'Neal opens up about his biological father: "I don't hold a grudge"

It wasn't until sergeant Phillip Harrison passed away that Shaquille O'Neal decided to let his biological father into his life
Shaquille O'Neal opens up about his biological father

Shaquille O'Neal opens up about his biological father

Joseph Toney was the one who gave Shaquille O'Neal his now-iconic name. But he's not the one who made the Hall of Famer the man he is today.

The father figure who raised Shaq was Army drill sergeant Phillip Harrison. Toney, his biological father, wasn't a part of his life. Not until O'Neal allowed him to.

Shaq on meeting his biological father

By the time Toney got out of prison for federal check frauds, Harrison had already taken the responsibility of raising Shaq. According to the latter, the two even shook on it.

“When he came back from prison, I saw him in the park, and we agreed that because he already had another child, I would be Shaquille’s dad and take care of him,” Harrison said. 

Shaq, however, knew nothing about it. Growing up with his brother and two sisters, the thought of them not having the same biological fathers never crossed his mind. Until one day, it did, and the 11-year-old O'Neal became curious.

"My brother and sister last name is Harrison and mine is Shaquille O'Neal. So I asked my mom, 'Why are they Harrison and I'm O'Neal?' She was like, 'Baby,' and then she told me the story. She said, 'Do you wanna meet your real dad?' I was like, 'Cool,'" Shaq said.

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"We go right back where I came from; the projects of New Jersey. I'm like, 'Cool, nice to meet you sir.' I'm cool. I got a house, I got brother and sisters, I'm cool where I am."

Shaquille O'Neal, The Pivot Podcast

"I don't hold a grudge"

Toney denied giving up his parental rights. But it took him years to see his son again.

Thinking Shaquille moved to Germany with Harrison -- the sergeant had been stationed there with the Army -- Joseph gave up trying to get in contact with his son. Then one day he recognized his name on TV during a high-school basketball game. From that moment, the only one standing between the two was Harrison. 

“He was really mad, told me to stay away,” Toney recalled.

But after his father figure died in 2013 -- something O'Neal describes as one of the toughest moments of his life -- Shaquille, persuaded by his mother, opened up to the idea of letting Toney be a part of his life.

"When I turned 18, the other guy showed up," O'Neal said. "At first, I was kinda upset with him. But after my dad passed away, my mother called me and she said, 'You know, you need to go see your biological father.' So we starting to become close."

Shaquille O'Neal, The Pivot Podcast 

"I don't hold a grudge because my life went the way it was supposed to go," O'Neal continued. "I live a really good live from a guy who's not even my biological father. He made me who I am today so I have to respect that, I have to understand that, and I don't dwell on anything else."

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