Shaquille Rashaun O'Neal was born in Newark, New Jersey, on March 6, 1972. He weighed an unremarkable 7-pounds-13-ounces and was named for an Islamic phrase that means "Little Warrior."
His parents, Lucille O'Neal and Joe Toney, never married. Toney, who was a student at Seton Hall University at the time of O'Neal's birth, parted ways with his new family soon afterward.
When O'Neal was two years old his mother married Philip Harrison, a sergeant in the U.S. Army. The new Harrison family bonded firmly. With O'Neal as the eldest sibling, Harrison's daughters Ayesha and Lateefa became step-sisters to O'Neal; a younger brother, Jamal was born later to the Harrisons. The family moved often.
Every moment, it was Harrison who was there. He began to play basketball at the age of seven, and was coached by Harrison.
In 1984, Shaq and his family relocated to West Germany. He acted out and rebelled (getting in fights, breaking into cars, hitting teachers, etc.) hoping that he'd be sent back to the States, until LSU basketball coach Dale Brown gave a clinic at a military base in Wildflecken, West Germany in 1985 where he noticed Shaq and asks, "Where are you from soldier?" "I'm not a soldier," replied O'Neal, then 6-foot-6. "I'm 13-years-old."
Brown immediately began recruiting Shaq and in 1987, his father was transferred back to the States and the family moved to San Antonio. After graduating from Cole High School in San Antonio, Texas, he enrolled at Louisiana State University, and would go on to become one of the most dominant players in the NBA.