Shareef O’Neal has been carving out an identity outside of that of his father, Shaquille O’Neal, for years.
Shareef, 23, opened up in a recent interview with Essence about the lengths his family, including his mother Shaunie O’Neal, went to to ensure he and his four other siblings had some semblance of normalcy while in school.
The NBA G League rookie said his family orchestrated a plan to shield classmates and those who were prone to being star-struck from fawning over his superstar dad, whose height is 7 foot 1.
“The thing about me that not a lot of people know is nobody knew who my dad was at none of my schools until I was about 15 or 16 years old,” he claimed. “All the parent-teacher conferences, it was just my mom who came. It was a set plan. We just kind of hid it so people didn’t treat us differently.”
However, the NBA G League Ignite forward said his cover was blown when Shaq attended one of his basketball games.
“But when basketball season started coming around, people started filming the games. There was a small game, 8 o’clock in the morning, my dad came and someone happened to film him. They posted it on YouTube, and that was it after that, everyone knew,” said the athlete, who stands at 6 foot 10.
Social media users shared a range of reactions, including disbelief. They wrote:
“As much as she loves reality tv, I can’t see how his mom hid it. We’ve seen all of them on tv since they were kids.”
“Necessary af. He wanted to be treated like the human HE IS. Not the human his dad is..”
“Sir you’re 8 feet tall & your last name is O’Neal, I think your classmates was gonna figure it out.”
“Love this smart kids. Bc some kids take advantage of the fact that their parents are celebs.”
The entire family, sans the former Los Angeles Lakers superstar, appeared on Shaunie’s reality show, “Shaunie’s Home Court,” around the same time that Shareef’s peers made the discovery. The former couple were married from December 2002 through May 2011, when their divorce was finalized.
Together they share four children, Shareef, Amirah, 22, Shaqir, 20, and Me’arah, 17; and Myles, 26, whom Shaunie had from a previous relationship.
Last year, the “Basketball Wives” creator and executive producer wed Pastor Keion Henderson. The four-time NBA championship winner admitted it was his fault that his and Shaunie’s marriage failed.
“You don’t know how good you got something till it’s gone,” he told E! News. “I mentioned about having a 76,000-square-foot house and nobody in there. That was all my fault.”
In his 2011 memoir, “Shaq Uncut: My Story,” he also admitted to cheating on his ex.