Shareef O’Neal was barely 6 months old when his father, Shaquille O’Neal, teamed with Kobe Bryant to win the primary of three championships together for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The elder O’Neal went on to have his No. 34 jersey retired by L.A. in 2013 and was enshrined within the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.
Yet when the younger O’Neal reported to the Lakers practice facility for a pre-draft workout on Tuesday, it wasn’t together with his father’s blessing.
“We sort of bump heads about this process,” O’Neal, 22, said on a video news conference. “He wanted me to remain in class. I wanted to higher myself through this. He knows I’m understanding with teams. But I’m not going to lie, we ain’t talked about this. I’m sort of just going through it. He didn’t do any pre-draft workouts; he just got straight on the [Orlando Magic], so it’s a distinct grind.
“So, he didn’t want me to do that, and I do know he probably doesn’t want me saying this, but sorry. We’re each grown, we’ll get past it.”
O’Neal is coming off a difficult collegiate profession, during which he totaled just 37 games over three seasons with UCLA and LSU.
His averages of two.6 points on 40.5% from the ground, 3.0 rebounds and 0.4 blocks pale compared together with his father putting up 21.6 points on 61% shooting, 13.5 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game for the LSU Tigers before going No. 1 to Orlando within the 1992 NBA draft.
The draft prospect identified that the production cannot be judged in direct comparison after he underwent open-heart surgery as a freshman and later handled foot and ankle injuries that sabotaged his last two seasons at LSU.
“I feel like me and him have an entire different story now,” O’Neal said when asked if he felt any pressure following his father’s legacy. “I went through some things that he didn’t undergo. He was the No. 1 pick within the draft. I sort of needed to grind to get here. I needed to grind quite a bit. I needed to undergo some stuff these past 4 years — foot injuries, heart surgeries — and I do not really look to be in his shadow.”
He credits Lakers athletic trainer Shane Besedick, who used to work with UCLA, for saving his life by discovering the precise anomalous coronary artery issue of their time with the Bruins.
“I understand it’s all the time going to be there, the comparison,” O’Neal continued. “Every kid goes to get in comparison with their dad who does the identical thing as them. In order that’s going to be there. It doesn’t trouble me.”
O’Neal — an influence forward at 6-foot-10, 215 kilos compared together with his father who played center at 7-1 and north of 300 kilos — said he was determined to remain within the draft after participating within the G League elite prospect camp last month.
“I felt like in college I wasn’t getting enough opportunity. I wasn’t feeling like myself in college,” he said. “[The invite] sort of opened numerous doors for me. … I feel prefer it really brought me back and sort of showed a little bit bit what I can do. And once I began getting calls from teams to work out, I used to be like, ‘Man, that is what I would like to do.’ I mean I’m here, it’s right in front of me, so just go for it. So I continued to work.”
The choice didn’t go over well together with his father, nonetheless.
“He didn’t like that concept in any respect,” O’Neal said. “It sucks that he didn’t like that concept, but I’m a grown man, I’m 22 years old, I could make my very own decisions. It was right in front of my face. I’m not backing up from it. I will go get it if I see it. That is just how I’m built. I take every thing the identical way. I took my heart surgery the identical way. Being cleared was right in front of me, being healthy was right in front of me, and I went for it. I’m not backing down from no one. I do know he’s an NBA legend, I do know he’s my dad, nevertheless it was right in front of me, I needed to go get it. So, if he likes it or not, it’s not likely going to stop me from doing what I would like to do.”
The Lakers don’t hold any picks within the draft Thursday — no first- or second-rounders — but have still hosted a handful of draft workouts the past couple of weeks to see prospects up close. They hope to have the opportunity to purchase a pick Thursday night and are curious about adding young talent that goes undrafted, like they did with Austin Reaves last season, sources told ESPN.