Shareef O’Neal wants to follow in his superstar dad’s footsteps, but it seems like Shaquille O’Neal has other ambitions for his 22-year-old son.
The topic came up during a press conference following Shareef’s preliminary training with the Los Angeles Lakers, for whom his father played between 1996 and 2004.
During the conference, Shareef discussed how his career plans differ from his father’s.
“We kind of bump into heads through this process,” the 22-year-old began. “He wanted me to stay in school. I wanted to improve myself with it.”
“He didn’t do any prepackaged workouts; he just came up with the [Orlando Magic], so it’s a different grind,” Shareef added of his father. “Well, he didn’t want me to do that and I know he probably doesn’t want me to say that, but sorry. We are both adults. We will get over it.”
Staying on topic of his famous father, Shareef opened up about the comparisons people inevitably draw between him and Shaquille.
“I feel like me and he have a very different story now. I went through some things that he didn’t go through. He was the #1 pick in the draft. I had to kind of grind to get here. I had to grind a lot,” he remarked. “I’ve been through a lot in the last four years – foot injuries, heart surgery – and I don’t really look like I’m in his shadow.”
“I know it will always be there, the comparison,” Shareef continued. “Every child is compared to their father who does the same as they do. So there will be. It does not bother me.”
Embed from Getty Images
Shareef also spoke about how he feels being invited to pre-draft practice is helping him not “get enough opportunity” during college, having played basketball for both UCLA and LSU.
“I felt like I didn’t get enough opportunities in college. I didn’t feel like myself in college,” he said. “[The invite] kinda opened a lot of doors for me… I feel like it really brought me back and showed a little bit of what I can do.”
“When I started getting calls from teams to train, I was like, ‘Man, this is what I want to do.’ I mean, I’m here, it’s right in front of me, so just do it. So I kept working,” Shareef added.
Thrilled at the opportunity to don official Lakers gear, Shareef said he was “starstruck”.
“I walked in today and was kind of struck by the stars. I was really born into this team. My dad and Kobe won championships when I was born and now I’m putting on Lakers gear. it was crazy I was kind of speechless,” Shareef recalled.
“It’s such a blessing for a team I grew up with. My dad won championships with this team and now that I have Lakers stuff it’s amazing. A dream come true,” he continued.