Men's Journal

Life Advice from Shaquille O’Neal

 Jason LaVeris / Getty Images

What adventure most changed your life?

Scuba diving with a faulty tank. This was a couple summers ago in Italy. I’d been diving about 20 times before, so I went down probably 200 feet. I was having a good time, and everything was fine. But then I couldn’t breathe. At first I was kind of panicking because I went for, like, 10 seconds trying to get the breather thing to work. Then I saw the boat’s anchor, and I went into MacGyver mode. I threw off the tank, grabbed the anchor chain, and just climbed all the way up. I was sick for about a day. I thought I had the bends, but I was just dead tired and nervous. I haven’t been scuba diving since. Never again.

What one thing should every man know about women?

They’re sensitive. Will I give an example? Nope. I don’t want to get in trouble at the house.

What skill should every man have?

The ability to defend yourself, because in certain situations you may have to protect a loved one or yourself. It should be instinct to be able to do a Steven Seagal wristlock, throw somebody around like that. I’m actually trained in jujitsu, been doing it for five years.

How do you make your favorite drink?

Take strawberries, blueberries, organic apple juice, and some ice, then blend them up.

What’s the best advice you ever received?

When I was 14, I went out with two of my boys. They stole a car. I wasn’t involved with that, but I was with them. When they got caught they ratted me out. Guilty by association. My father, Philip Arthur Harrison, asked me, “Why’d you do it?” and I said, “Shit, I was just with them.” He said, “Be a leader, not a follower.”

What song do you have to hear at least once a week?

The theme song for the Undertaker, the wrestler. It’s on one of my playlists that I always listen to in my car before I arrive at the arena. It’s old-school — dark and wicked.

What’s the worst physical pain you ever experienced?

Two broken wrists at the same time. When I was 11, I tried to do a James Bond move, climbing up between two trees that were close together. I got pretty far up. Then I fell face-first and landed on my wrists. I had casts on for eight weeks — couldn’t feed myself, couldn’t do anything. It was terrible.

What was the best meal you ever had?

Lucille’s fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. Lucille is my mother. I used to eat that every day growing up.

What’s the most cherished possession you ever lost?

My first credit card. That was in 1992, when I first got drafted. I put my wallet down, and everything disappeared. You know how you get out of college and you’ve got to be professional and do everything right? That just told me I was still irresponsible.

What’s your biggest vice?

Chewing on plastic bottle caps, like off Evian bottles. I just grind on them for hours. By the time I’m done they’re flat. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid. I don’t know why. I broke a tooth once doing it.

What’s the biggest bet you ever made?

We used to live in Germany because my dad was in the military. I’d already know the score of the Super Bowl before it was shown there. So I’d go to school and bet all the kids — dollars, quarters, lunches — and win every time. I won, like, 500 bucks. They never caught on.

What would you do with a time machine?

Go to the cloning era, clone myself 20 times, and put myself in America as 20 different people. One Shaq would be a banker. One Shaq would be a sheriff. One Shaq would be a race car driver. One Shaq would be a prince. One Shaq would be Spanish. We’d all be here at the same time, and every once in a while I’d meet myself.

What’s the most scared you’ve ever been?

On this ride in Orlando called Skycoaster. They take you up 300 feet and drop you, then swing you. They forgot to tighten my strap, so I had to hold on with my hands. That was a long ride.

What skill do you wish you could master?

Playing piano. I’ve never really had a lesson, but I buy books that teach you how to play. My problem is my fingers stick together. If I try to hit one key with my middle finger, they all move together.

What’s your biggest regret?

Nothing. 

This story first ran in the February 2009 issue of Men's Journal.