The Big Aristotle is determined to get an 8-pack of abs and has already lost 50 pounds.
Shaquille O’Neal is standing on the front yard of his 8,600-square-foot house in the Atlanta, Georgia, area during the first week of November. Shaq has lived in the metro Atlanta area for over ten years, and he has spent roughly four of those years in his present home. A black, iron-clad gate with the Superman logo, a reference to one of Shaq’s numerous monikers, stands at the entrance to the 30-acre estate. This emblem may be seen all around the property, outside a detached garage that has been turned into a gym, and on the front entrance. From the street, one can see a huge rusting structure that resembles basketball hoops and a gigantic gorilla statue.
Who lives here isn’t exactly a secret.
Shaq has a habit of whispering during interviews when he doesn’t want to chat, but in this instance, his deep voice is audible over the grass as he repeatedly asks me to confirm my age. I’m not actually 29 in any sense. I’m used to people being obsessed with how young I appear, mostly since I’m only four feet eleven inches tall. Even yet, I didn’t think Shaq would be so enthralled with it. My mother said, “I know you don’t like taking pictures at work, but please get a photo of you two standing together,” after I told her where I was heading for the interview. Shaq gives an order to one of his teammates to snap a photo of us with his phone before I had a chance to ask. He laughs that he wants to appear as though he is sending his daughter to school. The seven-foot-one NBA legend, wearing similar gym shorts and a black tank top, takes my hand and smiles for the picture.
My entire body is the size of his leg. When I look back at the picture, I saw that guy was saying, “Anybody mess with you, li’l Jewel, I’ll fuck them up,” right before a school bus passed by. He’s obviously still thinking about how little I am as we make our way back to the house. He states, “My record is four-nine,” referring to the shortest lady he has ever dated’s height. He goes on, “Anyone who dates me is lucky,” adding that even in my 40s, I’ll still have a youthful appearance.
at November 2021, Shaquille O’Neal was pictured at his 30-acre backyard outside Atlanta.The Andrew HethertonI didn’t come to Shaq’s estate to talk about how I might look in ten years, though. I’m strolling around his property to get a sense of how the former athlete sees himself now, going past the tree house and through the backyard where he plans to eventually create a dirt bike trail.
Given that his work has always made his physique a subject of public scrutiny, what is the approaching-50-year-old Shaq’s take on fitness and health? What changes are his priorities making? How does someone who has a reputation for being a huge kid deal with getting older? Shaq used to have childhood dreams of becoming a TV personality, a successful rapper and DJ, and a basketball champion. Beyond all of this, he has achieved much more.
He does more than just analyze TNT’s Inside the NBA these days. In addition, he is an EDM DJ known as Diesel, a producer of the animated short film Headnoise about anxiety, an owner of multiple fast-food chains, and possibly the best athlete in America who has transitioned into a pitchman, pushing everything from printers and Papa John’s to insurance and Icy Hot. It’s difficult to keep track of how many brands Shaq endorses because he frequently announces new collaborations and exits existing ones. It is estimated that he is worth $400 million.
Even in a time when division in America is worse than ever, Shaq has transcended his prominence in sports to become a revered public figure. As Shaq’s coworker on Inside the NBA, Kenny Smith, a former NBA player, notes, part of that popularity might stem from his honesty. Smith claims that Shaq is “unapologetic about who he is.” “He accepts his uniqueness, his shortcomings, and his grandeur. He doesn’t mind admitting that he’s larger than most people. He accepts who he is, something that most people don’t do. Even though you don’t always agree with Shaq’s actions or words, you would definitely still want to grab a drink with him. However, it would most likely need to be alcohol-free. Shaq has never been a big drinker.
His adoptive father, an Army sergeant, spotted him drinking beer when he was thirteen and forced him down it. Has not touched the items much since.A man known for his ability to switch between serious and silly, philosophical and (willfully) ignorant sentences, SHAQ tells me, in a rather serious tone, that he has been thinking a lot about what comedian and actor Deon Cole says in his 2019 Netflix special, Cole Hearted. Cole calls for a commotion from all those forty and older. Then, with one brief statement, he reminds the assembled people of their mortality as the throng starts to thin out.
“You have thirty summers left,” he remarks, tilting his head and widening his eyes. Cole later provided clarification on the comment, which he then used as a Twitter hashtag. “I don’t mean to die when I say there are 30 summers remaining. I mean, I have 30 summers left to live a vibrant, energetic life doing whatever I want,” he wrote on social media.Shaq remembers this occasion well, albeit his recollection is a little hazy. Cole, who turns 50 a few months before Shaq, is remembered by him as having said they had 15 summers left. Shaq states, “For me, I’ll be 65 [in] 15 summers.”
“I’ll be a fucking old man.” I didn’t give it any thought until he mentioned it. Of course, it is still possible to lead a “vibrant, energized” life after the age of 65, albeit your definition of “vibrant and energized” may not match Shaq’s.Speaking of energy, Shaq has been working out at home lately and burning a lot of calories. His weight gradually increased to almost 415 pounds during the pandemic. (His weight when playing was 325.)
He now trains for almost an hour four days a week, putting in 20 minutes of intense cardio and 40 minutes of intense muscle training. In time for his 50th birthday in March, he hopes to shed 35 pounds, get toned enough to “go topless,” and upload an obscene amount of photos to Instagram. He goes on to say that his fitness objective is to ensure that his belly does not protrude above his belt. He calls it “over-the-belt Barkley,” or “OTBB,” and he doesn’t want to become one of those people. (Of course, this is a reference to his colleague and buddy Charles Barkley from Inside the NBA. The two frequently argue about a variety of subjects, including their weight.)
The Andrew HethertonWhen Shaq made his first-ever medical appointment roughly two years ago, he was attempting to avoid this as well as preserving his stamina and energy. I ask him to repeat himself when he says this so I know I heard him right. Had Shaq never visited a physician before? At any point? True, he replies. Shaq has not seen a doctor outside of what he was provided as a professional player until lately.
He claims the physician had given him a list of areas he needed to work on. He would have to cut back on his munching as an NBA player who lived off of McDonald’s burgers or “a turkey club sandwich with extra mayo and two pineapple drinks.” Shaq claims he started using pills in an effort to keep “slim” and “presentable,” but he quickly ran into another issue. “When I started taking a competitor’s supplement, everything stopped. Everything, that is.With every tempting sentence, he grows more serious and states, “Nothing was working.
“Ever the entrepreneur, Shaq began to consider how many other guys in their 40s would gain from a novel kind of vitamin. This is what motivated him to start promoting Novex Biotech’s GF-9 diet pill alongside the company in early 2021. Shaq’s endorsement and before-and-after photographs can be found on the brand’s home page, which also claims that a clinical trial for the supplement “increase[s] mean, serum (blood) growth hormone levels by 682%.
” But Shaq’s commercial ventures in health and wellness don’t end there. While attempting to cut out soda from his diet, he also started advocating Alkaline88, which is marketed as a fully pH-balanced alkaline water supplemented with minerals and electrolytes. Even with his current health obsession, Shaq acknowledges that his diet isn’t flawless. He still despises veggies and prefers to snack, but only in moderation.
When Shaq turns 50 on March 6, 2022, he wants to be fit enough to post a topless selfie on Instagram.The Andrew HethertonCelebrity endorsement can be fraught with dangers, particularly when working with supplement companies that may promote their goods through exaggerated or deceptive claims that aren’t necessarily backed up by research. According to the Mayo Clinic, for example, ordinary water is generally just as beneficial as alkaline water, if not more so.
“Some dietary supplements that claim to boost levels of HGH come in pill form, but research doesn’t show a benefit,” according to Mayo Clinic doctors about supplements that promote human growth hormone (HGH), such as those sold by Novex.Although Shaq acknowledges that there is a notion that he endorses a lot of companies, he maintains that all of them are ones that he sincerely believes in, despite the fact that the company’s clinical trial had a very small sample size—just 16 people. “It is not possible for me to dislike a product and then convince you to appreciate it.
It’s a bad business decision, he says. It is unethical, and I would never engage in such behavior. I don’t need to take your money and then con people because I have enough money.Shaq licensed the rights to his name brand to Authentic Brand Groups in 2015. According to Nick Woodhouse, president and chief marketing officer of the company, while Shaq works with a lot of companies, he also turns down a “tremendous” amount of deals.
“Shaquille is in high demand as a business partner,” he claims. “From being one of the greatest NBA centers of all time, he has evolved into one of the greatest businessmen in history.”Sitting in his “office,” which is the island between his kitchen and living room, sits SHAQ, looking ridiculous. He’s informing me that following our interview, he’s going to the chain craft store Michaels. He needs to purchase something to put to the one vacant wall in his “boom boom room,” a bedroom on the main floor of the house that is currently being decorated.
The headboard of the bed, which has rhinestones in each of its tufts, and the room are both painted black to match. Shaq claims he acquired the bed by mistake, but he personally added matching single rhinestones to the doorframe and the room’s border. He went to Walmart the evening before our interview and bought five clocks and five mirrors for the room. They’re already hung up, although a little carelessly, when I get there. The wooden clocks fit just four times on the wall above the headboard, each one marked with a different time zone. The fifth clock is situated over a tiny rectangular mirror on a different wall.
DJ Diesel playing dance music on January 31, 2021, in Miami.SNAD PHOTOSShaq is quick to acknowledge that he still has a lot to learn about interior design (“I’m just learning about modern [versus] traditional,” he adds), but he already knows what the final details will entail. To imagine a situation where he is lying on the bed and has to stay motionless to avoid coming into contact with one of the death beams, he would like to add a smoke machine and laser lights that will reflect off the mirrors.
It’s just another instance of Shaq being Shaq—exerting his creative freedom and turning a term that usually has a sexual meaning into something lighthearted. For the record, he states that naps will take place in his “boom boom room.”
When he returns to the kitchen, a Men’s Health producer who is getting ready for a video interview asks him what advice he would give her 30-something lover who is feeling trapped. “You have to convince him that you don’t give a damn,” is my advise. Men have two things to worry about: themselves and the rest of you. The strain will start to lessen if you tell him, “Baby, I love you and I don’t care what you do,” he advises. “And then, put it on him when he gets home at night.”
Shaq changed his diet and lost over fifty pounds after reaching 415 pounds during the pandemic.The Andrew HethertonShaq claims that he is frequently asked for advice by young people, mostly men. “I have the answers because I’ve made a lot of mistakes,” he declares. Plus, having raised six children of his own, he knows what it’s like to shoulder the burden of supporting a whole family.
He gives presents to gullible strangers when he isn’t giving guidance. A video showing Shaq paying for an engagement diamond that a young guy had put on layaway went viral at the beginning of 2021. Shaq, though, claims that this occurs more frequently than is seen by cameras.
And a mother and a little child are typically involved.He describes his mother Lucille O’Neal, who reared him in Newark, New Jersey, and is currently a resident of Atlanta, as “my go-to source of inspiration.” “I try to find her and myself wherever I go.” Shaq observed a mother and her son recently at Best Buy, sifting through deals to purchase a 45-inch television. He took care of the bill and got the family a bigger TV. Another time, during the holidays, he witnessed a woman at Walmart attempting to settle a $500 layaway charge. That he also took care of.
He adds, “That could still be us, and that used to be us,” which may explain why he keeps working so hard. The pain of poverty has persuaded him that, with a few more business blunders, he might go back to putting items on layaway, even for a man who has been affluent for far longer than he was ever in need.Not only did Shaq’s upbringing shape his financial and charitable outlooks, but it also shaped most of his life convictions. He has always been upfront about having other family members in police enforcement and growing up with a drill sergeant for a stepfather.
Jerome, a family friend, has lived with him and served as his bodyguard for the entirety of his career. Shaq’s personal contact with the police is widely known. He has served as a reserve officer for the Port of Los Angeles, Miami, and other locations. He is also a U.S. deputy marshal with honors. In 2016, he was sworn in as a Clayton County, Georgia, deputy.He currently works as a community relations director for the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, organizing events like the motorcycle rally “Ride 4 Unity” that took place this past summer.
Shaq says, “I would love to see the community and law enforcement get back together.” He argues that in light of the growing public awareness of police violence against African Americans, he is aware of how contentious his admiration for law enforcement has become. “Believe me, I understand both sides.” Shaq claims that despite being well-known and serving in the police, he is frequently stopped by officers when he travels outside of the Atlanta metropolitan area. He claims he watched an officer make a U-turn and move up behind his car to pull him over when he stopped for gas once in Valdosta, Georgia, which is more than 200 miles away. He also remembers being pulled over by an officer who had his gun out. “‘Why did you pull out your gun?’ I asked him.
“I apologize,” he said. I had to fight with a huge guy the last time I stopped him. You have no idea what these individuals have endured, it occurred to me.
January 22, 2021: The new director of community relations for the Henry County Sheriff’s office.SNAD PHOTOSShaq acknowledges that not everyone agrees with his point of view on this and that there can be grave consequences from thinking along these lines. For the Black individuals who are the target of such bigotry, this kind of profiling by law enforcement officials entrusted with their protection and service can and has resulted in terrible consequences.
It’s unfortunate that instead of being alarmed by the potentially fatal consequences, his experiences being profiled have made him more understanding of these officers’ actions.Shaq’s perspective on this, meanwhile, stems from his early years, as with most things. He claimed in his 2011 autobiography Shaq Uncut that he was not raised in a home where racial issues were frequently discussed.
Nevertheless, this Black man with black skin has always been larger than typical. He was six feet four inches tall when he was just ten years old. Maybe Shaq’s outlook and his attempts to defuse situations with a grin and a joke have helped him survive in a culture where individuals can take advantage of his size and make him a prime target.Even yet, there are boundaries to his law-enforcement objectives, even if he still works with the Henry County Sheriff’s Office. He had originally intended to run for sheriff in the upcoming years, but he has since changed his mind. He wants to support Reginald Scandrett, the present sheriff of Henry County, because he likes him. In addition, “the climate’s too hot right now,” he claims.Shaq’s ideas on mental health are also influenced by his upbringing as an Army brat. My father is a military man, so he programs me.
You are more concerned with the solution than the issues. I’ll be here for a while, whatever the issue is, and then I’ll find the solution. Shaq snaps his finger, acting as though the solution is in front of him. “I remind myself that it might be worse if I can’t figure it out. Saying that solves all of my problems.Shaq has a way of making everything seem simple, but there are some things that happen that not even the most upbeat person can explain. He claims he’s still having trouble coming to terms with his sister’s cancer death in 2019—which occurred three months before Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant passed away.
(Among the first things you see when you go into Shaq’s house is an autographed photo of Bryant leaping into his arms following the duo’s first NBA title.) My sister was here, and there was a lot of “I’ll call her tomorrow” behavior. We’ll talk tomorrow. We’ll talk tomorrow. I’m never able to call her again now,” he laments.
Kobe Bryant speaks to O’Neal during game four of the Western Conference semi-finals May 14, 2000.GETTY IMAGES
He has similar feelings about Kobe. “I didn’t see Kobe at all. We didn’t call or text,” he continues. “That’s fucking with me. I don’t have a solution for that. I would never imagine them gone before me.” A few days before our chat, Snoop Dogg announced that his mother had died. As a friend of the rapper and a self-described “mama’s boy,” Shaq started thinking about his own mom. In many ways, he’s still eager to please her and leave a legacy that will make her proud.
“I just want people to say Shaq was a nice guy,” he says. “I want them to see somebody that mostly did the right thing. I don’t promote myself as perfect, but I take care of my family. I love people. I respect people. And I love Black women.” Shaq’s second act is nowhere near over, though. In his mind, he still has 15—or 30—Shaqtastic summers to live.