Shaquille O’Neal’s Mother Breaks Silence About Feeling Shaunie Was Not ‘The Right Relationship’ After Meeting for the First Time

NBA star Shaquille O’Neal met Shaunie Nelson, now Henderson, in 1996 upon moving to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers after four years with the Orlando Magic.

Between dating for over two years, welcoming their first child, Shareef, into the world in 2000, and tying the knot in 2002, it’s unclear exactly when Shaq introduced Shaunie to his mother, Lucille Harrison.

However, in a new interview, Lucille provided some insight into how she felt meeting the then-film marketer for the first time.

Shaquille O'Neal's mom reveals how she felt meeting Shaunie Henderson for the first time.
Shaquille O’Neal’s mother, Lucille Harrison (right), recently offered her take on what she thought when her son first introduced her to his now-ex-wife, Shaunie Henderson (left, with Shaq). (Photos: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images, Sway’s Universe/Youtube)

On June 24, Lucille Harrison, accompanied by Steph and Seth Curry’s mother, Sonya Curry, visited the “Sway in the Morning” show to discuss their new TV One podcast, “Raising Fame,” and their experience as mothers to some of the biggest athletes in the world.

During the sit-down, host Sway Calloway asked Lucille to share her thoughts about meeting Shaunie early in her relationship with Shaq.

“A mother’s love for a son is something extremely unique, and at some point, those sons find other women,” Sway began. “They find wives. What was it like when you first met Shaunie? What was that like knowing that my son is about to be married and has this new person in their life?”

“Before then, I had already gotten to the place where my place is secure. I don’t care who he marry or who he gets with. I know my place, and I’m secure in it,” said Lucille.

While Lucille admits she was secure with her role in her son’s life, she also hinted her intuition told her something about the budding relationship might not have been right.

“It’s hard to see them go into a relationship and somehow you may feel maybe that might not be the right relationship,” she said. “But, you have to step back, and we have to let it happen. And I tell a lot of the mothers that we are going to remain their mothers as long as they live… we are not their girlfriends. So, I’m safe in my place.”

Lucille’s hunch may have been right.

Shaq and Shaunie wed in a low-key ceremony in 2002. By 2007, the couple, who now had four children together as well as one child each from previous relationships, were headed for divorce. Fortunately, they felt it best to stick it out and soon withdrew their divorce petition and reconciled.

Two years later, in 2009, they once again agreed to go their separate ways and filed for divorce in 2010 as Shaunie sought to end her seven-year union, citing “irreconcilable differences.” The divorce was finalized in 2011.

Shaq has openly discussed the transgressions he committed during his marriage nd admitted that he was ultimately responsible for the relationship crumbling.

“I wasn’t protecting her and wasn’t protecting the vows. Sometimes when you live that double life you get caught up. So I’m not going to say it was all her… it was all me. She did exactly was she was supposed to do, gave me beautiful kids, took care of the house, took care of the corporate stuff… it was just all me. Sometimes when you make alot mistakes like that you can’t really come back.” O’Neal said during an interview in 2022.

In her memoir “Undefeated: Changing the Rules and Winning on My Own Terms,” Shaunie suggested that although she loved Shaq for being the father he is for their children, there were other parts of him that she did not necessarily love.

“Looking back, I don’t know that I was ever really in love with the man, but I was in love with the idea of being married to the man I had a family with,” she wrote.

After receiving backlash for the excerpt, Shaunie pushed back against the notion that she was never fully in love with Shaq during their marriage, arguing her words were “taken out of context.”

“My book is my truth, and when I was talking to my friend yesterday, I was like, developing an opinion,” she told People magazine. “And a comment from content with no context will show you a lot of people’s intelligence and unintelligence, right? There was no context to just that one quote that I said, and I think that sadly, people are taking my words out of context.”

In 2022, Shaunie married Houston-based Pastor Keion Henderson. Shaq congratulated Shaunie on her engagement during an appearance on The Pivot Podcast, saying, “She’s happy now. She’s about to marry a fine young gentleman, and I’m happy for her.”

Shaq and Shaunie continue co-parenting six children. Shaunie has a son from a previous relationship, while Shaq shares a daughter with an ex-girlfriend.

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