Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal received his doctorate (Ed. D) in Education with an emphasis on Leadership from Miami Beach-area Berry University in 2012, but the “Big Aristotle” has another interest outside sports – law enforcement. The seven foot-one, three hundred-pound plus NBA Hall of Fame center has been a deputy sheriff in several cities he played in and even talked about running for Sheriff of Lake County, Florida.
Police Academy in LA
Shaquille O’Neal’s off-the-court aspirations read like a childhood dream — teacher, police officer, actor, video game creator, rapper, MMA fighter, and businessman. The origin of Shaq’s fascination with law enforcement is difficult to pin down, but it likely stems from the upbringing he received under Phillip Harrison, O’Neal’s stepfather and a Sergeant in the U.S. Military.
Shortly after signing with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1996, O’Neal attended and passed police academy exams, allowing Shaq to become a reserve officer for the Los Angeles Port Police. O’Neal, in a demonstration of allegiance to the Los Angeles Police Department, paid for one of two police vehicles destroyed in pseudo-riots that broke out after the Lakers won the 2000 NBA Championship.
On the Beat in Miami
While playing for the Miami Heat from 2005 to 2008, Shaquille underwent training to become a reserve officer for the Miami Police. Instead of being sworn in with the rest of the police academy graduates, Shaquille requested a private ceremony in order not to detract other graduates who would be celebrating with their families.
O’Neal earned an annual salary of $1, but maintained weekly contact with Miami Beach Police Chief Don De Lucca and underwent further training with the hopes of being certified to make arrests and conduct warranted searches. As a reserve officer in Miami, O’Neal aided police in arresting two individuals later charged with aggravated battery and a hate crime.
The Department of Justice also made Shaq a U.S. Deputy Marshall in 2005, with O’Neal using police software to help track down sexual predators.
A Layover in Phoenix
In early 2008, Miami traded Shaquille to the Phoenix Suns for a package which included All-Star forward Shawn Marion. Although separated from his post in Miami, O’Neal continued to pursue a connection with Phoenix-area law enforcement during his two seasons in Phoenix. Shaquille volunteered with the Tempe Police Department during this time.
As a member of the Phoenix Suns, current Laker Steve Nash directed and Shaq starred in a 1970s throwback cop short film, which you can check out above. Shaquille did not establish a connection with law enforcement in Cleveland or Boston, but that is understandable as he had short tenures with the Cavs and Celtics (53 and 37 games, respectively).
Returning to Orlando
Shaquille O’Neal recently campaigned on behalf of Sandy Carpenter in his bid to be elected Sheriff of Lake County, Florida, a part of the greater metropolitan Orlando area. Carpenter mentored and befriended O’Neal during his early years as center for the Orlando Magic, with Shaquille noting that Carpenter’s influence kept the Hall of Famer out of a considerable amount of trouble. Unfortunately, Sandy Carpenter lost the election in August 2012 to incumbent Gary Borders in the Republican primary.
O’Neal will appear as a balding police officer complete with an awful wig in 2013’s Grown Ups 2, the sequel to the 2010 Adam Sandler and Chris Rock comedy that grossed $271 million dollars worldwide. The exact nature of the cameo, and whether or not it will be as awesome as Mike Tyson’s cameos in the Hangover series, is unknown.
Running for Sheriff?
Following in the steps of fellow celebrity Hunter S. Thompson, could a run for Sheriff’s office be in Shaq’s future? The Hall of Fame center has mentioned it frequently in interviews, but whether or not his law enforcement resume is substantial enough will play a large role in a bid for Sheriff. With mentor and friend Gary Borders running for (and losing) the position of Lake County sheriff, O’Neal has no doubt revisited the idea.
In recent interviews, Shaquille jokingly commented on running for Lake County Undersheriff/Chief Deputy. The position of Undersheriff, however, is not up for election — the Undersheriff is appointed by the current Sheriff. If Shaquille wants to pursue a future in law enforcement, he will likely want to increase his knowledge and background. With a doctorate in hand, could law school be far behind?
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