Shareef O’Neal is looking to follow in his superstar father’s footsteps, but it seems as though Shaquille O’Neal has different aspirations for his 22-year-old son.
The subject came up during a press conference following Shareef’s pre-draft workout with the Los Angeles Lakers, whom his father played for between 1996 and 2004.
During the conference, Shareef discussed how his career plans differ from those his dad has in mind.
“We kind of bump heads about this process,” the 22-year-old began. “He wanted me to stay in school. I wanted to better myself through this.”
“He didn’t do any pre-draft workouts; he just got straight on the [Orlando Magic], so it’s a different grind,” Shareef added of his father. “So, he didn’t want me to do this, and I know he probably doesn’t want me saying this, but sorry. We’re both grown. We’ll get past it.”
Staying on the subject of his famous dad, Shareef spoke on the comparisons people inevitably make between him and Shaquille.
“I feel like me and him have a whole different story now. I went through some things that he didn’t go through. He was the No. 1 pick in the draft. I kind of had to grind to get here. I had to grind a lot,” he noted. “I had to go through some stuff these past four years — foot injuries, heart surgeries — and I don’t really look to be in his shadow.”
“I know it’s always going to be there, the comparison,” Shareef continued. “Every kid is going to get compared to their dad who does the same thing as them. So that’s going to be there. It doesn’t bother me.”
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Shareef also spoke about how he feels the invitation to the pre-draft workout is helping to make up for him not “getting enough opportunity” during college, as he played basketball for both UCLA and LSU.
“I felt like, in college, I wasn’t getting enough opportunity. I wasn’t feeling like myself in college,” he said. “[The invite] kind of opened a lot of doors for me… I feel like it really brought me back and kind of showed a little bit what I can do.”
“Once I started getting calls from teams to work out, 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 go for it. So, I continued to work,” Shareef added.
Shareef gushed over the opportunity to don official Lakers gear, saying he was “starstruck.”
“I walked in today, and I was kind of starstruck. Like, I was really born into this team. My dad and Kobe won championships when I was born, and now it’s me putting on the Lakers gear. It was crazy. I was speechless, kind of,” Shareef recalled.
“It’s such a blessing for a team I grew up watching. My dad won championships with this team and now that I have on Lakers stuff, it’s amazing. It’s a dream come true,” he continued.