An Athlete, an Entreprenuer, an Officer: How Shaq Does It All

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For 19 seasons, Shaquille O’Neal was one of the most feared centers in NBA. Carrying 325 pounds on his 7’1’’ frame, he straight dominated the game of basketball, earning four championship rings on top of an endless list of accolades. Shaq’s irreplaceable presence on the court certainly translated into financial success; the giant hauled in nearly $300 million between 1992 and 2011 just from playing basketball.

While most folks—even those who don’t actively follow sports—most likely know who Shaq is, they might not know that aside from being an enormous human being who translated his physical attributes into athletic success, the man keeps himself insanely busy, even in retirement.

Thanks to the endorsement deals, entertainment gigs and business ventures he’s juggled, today, Shaq’s net worth is estimated to be somewhere near $350 million. While most athletes might hang up their cleats and go gently into the good night, it appears Shaq has chosen to treat his retirement the same way most of us treat college graduation.

Case in point? The big guy has ownership claims on 155 Five Guys Burgers restaurants, 150 cash washes, 40 gyms, 17 Auntie Annie’s Pretzels eateries, a shopping center, a movie theater and a handful of night clubs. He also brings in a ridiculous amount of money each year (i.e., more than $20 million) through endorsement deals with companies like Buick, Zales, Gold Bond and Icy Hot.

(Oh yeah, and there’s the movies, the rap albums, the video games. Ever play Shaq Fu? Well, thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign, gamers across the world will be able to play a sequel soon. And there’s his involvement in creating a water-proof floating speaker, his financial intelligence as a pre-IPO investor in Google, his real estate investments, his. . . And somehow he juggles this all with six children!)

So how did Shaq successfully metamorphose from a 15-time NBA All-Star into a bona fide business man? Here are three lessons we can learn from the guy who’s larger than life, both figuratively and literally.

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1. Never Underestimate the Power of a Strong Education

Shaq wasn’t always a wise with his finances. In fact, he spent his first $1 million within 30 minutes of getting it—something that inspired his banker to give him a call and tell him he better get some financial sense so as to ensure he wouldn’t one day end up the classic broke athlete.

That phone call changed Shaq’s life, inspiring him to head back to school to grab his bachelor’s degree, his master’s degree and even his doctorate. Yes, you read that correctly, Shaquille O’Neal has a Ph.D. in education; he wrote his thesis on the value of humor in leadership.

Though he was a dominating professional athlete for nearly two decades, Shaq always knew that there was power in education. Instead of ending up dead broke like so many other athletes—here’s looking at you, Allen Iverson—by deciding to continue his education, it appears the big man has a chance at becoming a billionaire in the near future.

2. Stay Out of Trouble—Hard Work Pays Off

Ostensibly due to the fact that the man he grew up calling “Dad” was a sergeant, Shaq learned from an early age that discipline, dedication and determination where necessary components of success.

“I realized if I worked hard and stayed out of trouble, I could make a name for myself,” Shaq said.

In a recent interview, Shaq explained that as many of the kids he ran around with back in the day were getting in trouble, his father put him on the right path. An example: When he was 13, Shaq’s father caught his son drinking. His punishment? Drink an entire 12-pack, something which might seem a little unconventional. But it was effective. The experience, Shaq says, turned him off so much to alcohol that he hasn’t had a sip since.

Now a reserve police officer in South Florida—on top of the billion other hats he wears—Shaq is poised to serve as a positive role model for underprivileged kids, encouraging them to stay on the straight and narrow like his dad did decades ago.

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3. Believe in What You Do

There are retired athletes like Tony Siragusa who apparently have absolutely no shame, hocking things like Depends for Men in what appears to be a transparent attempt to get a buck for just about anything.

But Shaq, not surprisingly, is a different breed of athlete. He’s not looking for a quick buck. Instead, he’s looking to generate mountains of cash over the long haul.

“If I like your idea or your company or your product, I’m not really looking for an endorsement deal,” he said. “I want a partnership.  You get a great partner when you get me. I’m not interested in just taking your money. I’ll promote, I’ll help, I’ll do anything I can to make it work for both of us.”

Part of the reason he went back to school to get those degrees was simply to prove to potential partners that they couldn’t look at him as just another athlete; he has a master’s in business, after all. Shaq is so committed to business success that he wanted to prove that commitment with his actions.

Any advice for would-be entrepreneurs?

“You make your own decisions, you live with those decisions, and you move on,” he said. “I don’t look for the quick hit. I invest in things because I believe in them. If you stick to that model, you can’t lose.”

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