NBA Draft prospect Shareef O’Neal might want to follow in his famous father’s footsteps, but that doesn’t mean his old man is on board with his professional plan. After working out for the Los Angeles Lakers, O’Neal revealed that his father, Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, didn’t want him to enter the draft after his junior year of college.
“We kind of bump heads about this process,” the younger O’Neal said in a video news conference. “He wanted me to stay in school. I wanted to better myself through this. He knows I’m working out with teams. But I’m not going to lie, we ain’t talked about this. I’m kind 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 different grind.”
The elder O’Neal has a point. Shareef played just 37 games in three seasons at UCLA and LSU. He averaged only 2.6 points per game in college and needed heart surgery during his time at UCLA. Add all of that up and O’Neal is not expected to be drafted on Thursday. Still, he believed he’d gotten all he could out of the college experience.
“He didn’t like that idea at all,” O’Neal added of his father. “It sucks that he didn’t like that idea, but I’m a grown man, I’m 22 years old, I can make my own decisions. It was right in front of my face. I’m not backing up from it. I’m going to go get it if I see it. That’s just how I’m built. I take everything the same way. I took my heart surgery the same 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 nobody. I know he’s an NBA legend, I know he’s my dad, but it was right in front of me, I had to go get it. So, if he likes it or not, it’s not really going to stop me from doing what I want to do.”
If O’Neal is not drafted, he’ll have other pathways into professional basketball aside from college. He could play in Summer League or the G-League if he wants to remain in the United States, or he could play abroad and try to expand his game in foreign leagues. Plenty of players have made the leap from Europe or the G-League into the NBA, so O’Neal’s chances of playing in the league are still very much alive. But his father has a point. Given his limited collegiate track record, he’s facing an uphill battle at this point in his career.