NBA legend, serial entrepreneur, and TV analyst, Shaquille O'Neal had a very unorthodox upbringing. His family changed locations frequently because of his father, Philip Harrison, who was a military man, and naturally, the job required him to switch posts every couple of years.
Shaquille O'Neal's family moved to Germany when he was a kid
In 1984 the family came to Wildflecken, Germany, home to a US military base, where they spent the next couple of years before returning to the United States. Soon after arriving in Germany, Shaq had the luck of meeting LSU coach Dale Brown as he shares in his book, Shaq Uncut: My Story.
"So one day the officers on the base are all excited because this basketball coach from Louisiana State University was coming to put on a clinic. His name was Dale Brown and I had never heard of him, but I liked him right away."
Coach Dale Brown meets 13-year-old Shaq
After the clinic, Shaq went up to coach Brown and asked if he had any jumping drills for him. Shaq explained he was clumsy and had a terrible vertical jump. Coach Brown offered to help; "He said, "I'll tell you what I'll do, soldier. When I get back to Baton Rouge I'll send you a weight-training program. How many years have you been in the service?" 'I answered, "I'm not in the service. I'm only thirteen years old." Dale Brown's eyes opened real wide when he heard that. He said, "Well, son, I'd like to meet your parents."
And that's how it began; Coach Brown touched base with Shaq every once in a while upon returning to Baton Rouge; he sent him all kinds of weight lifting and vertical jump training regimens — and most importantly, made sure to respect Shaq's parents and promise them a very respectful education for the young Diesel.
Shaq didn't make the high school basketball team
Soon after the clinic, Shaq was ready to start high school, and that's when the first roadblock in this glorious basketball career occurred.
"I tried out for the high school basketball team on the base in Germany. I got cut. At the time I was probably six foot eight, but they didn't care. There was another guy named Dwayne Clark who was also about my size, and he was better than me. He could dunk, hit fadeaways, dribble. He was an upperclassman and he used to laugh at me. He'd do simple stuff like throw me an upfake, wait for me to jump, then go around me like I wasn't even there. That guy abused me."
Even greats like O'Neal had situations where they questioned if they had what it takes to make it. Shaq was crushed by the coach's decision and didn't bother trying out for the junior varsity team. The fact of the matter is that Shaq was lazy, as he openly admits, and played at half speed without much grit or aggression. Fortunately for Shaq, "Shortly afterwards, this guy named Ford McMurtry, who was the assistant coach of the high school team, quit that job and started a team on the base. He said to me, "Come play for us." Ford was nice to me. He raised my confidence level. He worked on my conditioning and my footwork. When I got discouraged with my clumsiness, he was patient."
Shaq changed his demeanor and became highly recruited
Shaq's progress was evident very quickly, and many people took notice. In 1987, the family relocated to San Antonio, where Shaq attended Cole High School; he was a junior at the time and was already enormous, standing at 6'10" as a 16-year-old. Cole High School won the state championship in Shaq's senior year, and the full-ride scholarship offers started flying in from everywhere.