Generation Shaq: Catching adult with a kids named after a larger-than-life NBA superstar

The immature lady wandered by a bookstore circuitously a area mosque, adult and down a aisles, acid for a name. She was roughly 18 years aged and roughly 9 months profound with her initial child. The ideal name would feel empowering. It would also communicate courage; a singular mother, she and her son indispensable to be crafty together. She saw him apropos a purpose model. She hoped he could accomplish large things.

The baby was innate on Mar 6, 1972, during Columbus Hospital in Newark, N.J., and weighed 7 pounds, 11 ounces. For his core name, a mom chose Rashaun. “Warrior,” according to a book of names she found. A few pages later, underneath a successive letter—S—she found his initial name. “Little one,” examination a adjacent interpretation, she recalls, nonetheless smooth speakers now competence contend it means “shapely” or “handsome.”

In any case, a child hated his name. Teachers couldn’t pronounce it; classmates mocked it. Then his stepfather, an Army staff sergeant, got separated to Germany. A uninformed start, so a child began going by J.C., that stood for Just Cool.

One day, personification outside, someone hollered for J.C. Overhearing this, his stepfather stomped over and snatched his collar. “You improved be unapproachable of your name,” a child was told. “Your name’s going to be famous one day. Everybody’s going to know a name Shaquille O’Neal.”

Shaqs, from left: Panthers linebacker Thompson, Long and Omari.

Shaquille O’Neal Long can't remember when a Jeep pulled into a drive and his namesake knocked on a front door. Granted, he was hardly 3 months aged that morning in Jan 1991, still wearing his infant-sized church garments after returning from Sunday services. His relatives didn’t know about a warn headed their approach either, nonetheless word had gotten around larger Baton Rouge that one family christened their son after a backboard-busting sophomore during circuitously LSU. After a birth, a pointer blared from a marquee outward a core propagandize where Ernest Long worked: HOME OF LITTLE SHAQUILLE O’NEAL LONG.

That was adequate to serve a large male himself, ducking by a doorframe, temperament gifts of basketball jerseys and bibs. “Can we get a design of we holding him?” Long asked, so they acted by a Jeep. “And a design of him by your shoe?” So O’Neal slipped off one of his size-22 sneakers, bigger than tiny Shaq by several inches.

In 1992, a year a Magic drafted O’Neal initial overall, his initial name ranked No. 426 among national masculine births, according to a Social Security Administration. In 1993, a year O’Neal was Rookie of a Year, 1,784 boys were named Shaquille, for an normal of 5 baby Shaqs any day, and a name vaulted to No. 181. Over time O’Neal would learn about families customarily like a Longs. Parents common their stories during a grocery store. Google Alerts for other Shaquilles pinged into his phone. A second epoch formed.

“I’d substantially theory around 250,” O’Neal says. His greeting when told a genuine figures: “Holy s—. Seriously? My God. Damn, that’s crazy.”

Now a millennial Shaquilles are creation names for themselves, graduating college and entering a workforce. Searching “Shaquille” on LinkedIn yields 2,154 results; 526 profiles compare “Shaq.” They are clarinetists and lady pastors and math tutors and aerospace engineers. One is a paralegal for a U.S. National Guard. Two helped build competition cars from blemish for college competitions. One spent a year and a half stating on a 2016 presidential race, during that Wisconsin administrator Scott Walker would call on him during gaggles by seeking simply, “Shaq?”

Shaquille Omari delivers groceries by a app Deliv, so when business see his initial name and final initial, they mostly open a doorway and say, “Shaquille O’Neal is here!” Evade any tolls recently in New York City? Chances are good that Shaquille Gurley beheld from his information analytics position with a Port Authority. Shaquille Jones played tuba in a marching rope during Tennessee. He didn’t confront any other Shaquilles over 4 years in Knoxville, nonetheless another famous name stood out: “Met about 5 or 6 Peytons,” he says.

Some Shaqs are in a bar by chance, like Shaquille Townsend, whose father knew zero about O’Neal’s success while stationed during an Air Force bottom in Japan and listened a name from a friend. But these are outliers. Of a 40-plus Shaquilles interviewed by SI, all nonetheless dual pronounced their parents’ choice was desirous by a rim-rattling, joke-cracking, rapping, Kazaam-ing, 7’ 1″, 300-plus-pound center. “We’re always going to live in a shade of Shaquille O’Neal,” says Shaq Thompson, a Panthers linebacker. “That’s a original. That’s a inventor.”

As an Oct 1990 birth, Long considers himself among a first. Which means he listened all a one-liners from classmates and got all a DMV double-takes before anyone else. “There was a gossip that Shaq was my godfather,” he says. “I don’t know who started it, nonetheless we let it slide.” He bought Shaq Attaq sneakers given his name was stitched into a heel. The plates on his black 2014 GMC Sierra Denali contend SHAQL. It was his girlfriend’s car, though, that once got pulled over with Long behind a wheel. Eyeing his license, a officer said, “Shaquille O’Neal, huh? You got a whole name?”

Long, a prolongation manager for a production company, still lives in Louisiana. Fifteen years after a home visit, he and O’Neal crossed paths again, over lunch during a Baton Rouge grill joint. Long asked for a design when O’Neal finished eating nonetheless didn’t wish to worry him serve by bringing adult a size-22s. Of course, O’Neal never forgot. He still remembers what he satisfied as his Jeep pulled from a Longs’ driveway:

“I consider I’m a luminary now. People are fixing their kids after me.”

Aaron Shaquille McCain was impending his second birthday when a May 1996 emanate of Ebony strike mailboxes, a poetic family print splashed conflicting a cover, successive to a concomitant headline, “Shaquille O’Neal: Superstar Pays Tribute to His Supermom.”

After reading a essay in her southern Virginia home, Karshena McCain felt desirous to coop a minute to a editor, that Ebony published after that summer. “I, too, am a singular parent,” she wrote. “[My son] was named after Shaquille O’Neal, and we wish we have a strength to teach a qualities of responsibility, faithfulness and a practical inlet Mrs. Lucille Harrison has instilled in Shaquille. . . . we wish that my Shaquille and we will share that unequivocally special bond also.”

It wasn’t customarily O’Neal’s beast force and strenuous talent on a court—in his initial 4 seasons he won an NBA scoring pretension and played in 4 All-Star games—but his joyous celebrity and mama’s-boy attract that incited McCain toward a name. “He couldn’t get by an talk nonetheless a joke, or a prank, or some form of trite comment,” she says. “And we customarily remember thinking, ‘I adore this guy.’” Certainly her Shaq shares a hallmark goofiness, either busting out dance moves or belting karaoke. (“Go-to song?” he says. “Top three: ‘Party in a USA’ by Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off,’ and Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies.’”) And a proposal side. In high school, when his mom was balancing 3 jobs, he offering to assistance cover losses by removing one too.

Now 22 years aged and a new connoisseur of UNC Charlotte, Shaq McCain works for an area auto-detail service, soaking players’ cars during Hornets games. He also likes reading about O’Neal’s many investment ventures—restaurants, film theaters, an esports team—and thinks about entering a business world. “I try to follow him as many as we can,” McCain says.

Like Karshena McCain, copiousness of relatives hoped their progenies would follow in a Original’s oversized footsteps—and not customarily on a basketball court. After his beginner year in college, Shaquille Odom was considering dropping out and holding a high-paying pursuit hosing down oil tankers. So his relatives sat him down and said, “Just consider about Shaq.” Specifically, consider about how O’Neal stayed during LSU for 3 years before branch pro, nonetheless after warranted his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. The enterprise to pursue preparation was given a Odoms named their son after him in Jun 1991—and given Odom motionless not to leave propagandize roughly dual decades later. “Without Shaq,” he says, “I don’t consider I’d be who we am today.”

From Huang (left) to Paraig (right), Shaquilles around a universe have grown adult in far-flung locales—and common some-more than customarily a famous namesake.

Shaquille Shelby finally entered this universe after his mom spent 24 hours in realistic labor. In pain and tired she devoted his father to manage a early parenting tasks, such as inking a initial footprint and picking a name. Shelby’s mom had suggested Richard, after her father. “If you’re going to go conflicting my mom’s word, we improved have a good reason,” Shelby, now 22, says. And that was . . . ? “He suspicion it’d be cold because, well, Shaquille O’Neal was doing large things. No joke intended.”

Some families take their tributes even further, that isn’t always welcome. “I told myself that we would get abounding and a initial thing I’d do is change my name,” says Shaquille O’Neal Minnifield. “My initial name, we was always cold with it. It was a core one that put a topping on a cake. we can’t be going around compared with this bald-headed, nauseous dude.”

Then there are those whose relatives didn’t predict a ramifications of their name choice. “It was kind of rough, not going to distortion to you,” says Shaquille Allante O’Neal, 24. “I’m 5’ 5″.” To equivocate association, his Facebook page used to arrangement his core name instead of his last. But when he attempted updating to a full thing this year, Facebook asked him to send a print ID as proof. “They said, ‘Sorry, we don’t trust that’s your genuine name.’”

Imagine afterwards a eyebrows lifted during Shaquille Huang, 23, whose family changed from a Philippines to Alaska when he was seven. “I was an Asian Shaq vital in Anchorage,” he says. “And we played hockey.” He’s not alone—the name doesn’t shorten to one competition or gender. “Having other womanlike friends named like Sarah or Ashley, we wanted a name like that,” says Shaquille Paige, 25. “But as we got older, we satisfied everybody has their possess uniqueness.”

Shaquille Christmas, 23 and works in a vaccine lab, hails from Trinidad; grad tyro Shaquille Rolle, 23, from a Bahamas; Shaquille Dawson, a United Kingdom. Each reported identical epiphanies after immigrating stateside: Their name was approach some-more renouned than they thought. “I asked my teacher, given are these kids looking during me uncanny during hurl call?’” Rolle says. “She had to tell me what a name meant.”

A product of inner-city Newark, not distant from where a bookstore and a mosque once stood, Shaquille Jones-Knight, 24, gifted something different. Each tumble his Pop Warner football teams typically rostered during slightest one other Shaquille. Then he went to prep propagandize in western Maine. “First time being around primarily white people,” he says. “It was unequivocally a enlightenment shock. Obviously my name stood out more, nonetheless it was a outrageous icebreaker with people that we substantially wouldn’t routinely hang out with.”

Shaquille Pariag, 26, felt like a troops brat as a kid, relocating each dual years given his father sole insurance. In this approach Pariag can describe to Huang, who hopscotched from Anchorage to Los Angeles and now lives in a Bay Area. But they share an even deeper bond too:

Each has a younger hermit named Kobe.

Shaquille Baptiste jolted watchful to a sound of an iPhone alert. He had dreamed about this impulse ever given he began emceeing as a teen in downtown Toronto, underneath a theatre name ShaqIsDope. Now, late in a summer of 2013, a prerogative for his faith had finally arrived, intense there on a close screen: @SHAQ is following we on Twitter! “I customarily knew,” Baptiste says, “that one day he would find me.”

Much to his shock, a indebtedness was mutual. Upon finding one of Baptiste’s early strain videos on a website WorldstarHipHop, O’Neal dismissed off some graceful approach messages—“just observant we unequivocally are f—ing dope,” Baptiste recalls—before dropping a bombshell request. Would Baptiste wish to combine on a remix of “Karate Chop,” a Lil’ Wayne and Future joint? Could they make swat story together, an rising talent fasten army with a once-platinum artist who expelled 4 studio albums, Shaq feat. Shaq?

An deficient chronicle of a strain shortly pinged into Baptiste’s inbox. Then 20 years old, he rushed to a studio, cut his hymn within 3 days, and emailed a finished product behind to O’Neal. “You killed it, homie,” came a reply. “Keep bringing life to a name.” The lane was expelled online by Complex magazine. At first, it drew skepticism. “Little-known Toronto rapper ShaqIsDope deserves some credit for his ingenuity,” examination one review, “assuming it’s a fake.” But not even seasoned spoofers could’ve scripted lyrics like a genuine Shaq:

Sometimes we doubt what we rappers spitting
You know in a post your donkey is barbeque chicken
Don’t need to go platinum, that’s what we rappers do
I’ll twitter this verse, that’s 8 million views.

“A lot of doors non-stop adult after that,” Baptiste says. Six months later, he flew to New York City and met with several record labels. “Well, we brought Shaq out of retirement,” one exec told him, “so we contingency be a good rapper!” In Mar he achieved a 20-minute showcase during South by Southwest. His singular “Stay Focused” reached 4 million streams on Spotify in June. He skeleton to recover his new EP this summer. Naturally, it’s self-titled.

“ShaqIsDope,” O’Neal says. “That’s a good name. Wish we would’ve suspicion of that.”

Shaquille Walker kept some crafty childhood friends. Short, spare and lacking in basketball talent, he was tagged with a nickname, Qahs. “Because we was a accurate conflicting of Shaq,” a 5’ 10″, 140-pound veteran middle-distance curtain says. “The customarily similarity, we guess, is a free-throw ability.”

Sobriquets were always O’Neal’s specialty. The abbreviation—Shaq—came first, suggestive of a former NC State forward-center Charles Shackleford. Then: Shaq-Daddy, Shaq-Fu, Shaq Diesel, Super Man, Big Shamrock, Big Aristotle (his favorite, for a record). . . . Has any contestant ever generated sweeter nicknames than a Big Agave?

The delegate Shaquilles have hereditary these—among Huang’s many appreciated security is an autographed Heat ball cap: TO THE LITTLE DIESEL, FROM SHAQUILLE O’NEAL—and desirous more. After recuperating from a enlarged birthing process, Shelby’s mom took to pursuit him Shaq-a-Doodle. “I had so many nicknames,” says Shaquille Price, a former walk-on cornerback during North Carolina who answered to Shaqtin’ a Fool. “I can’t even remember right now.”

This is a cold part. The annoyances? Spelling and pronunciation. Trips to Starbucks and Smoothie King are nightmares. So was a initial day of school. Common rollcall butcherings embody sha-KWEEL, sha-KWILL, sha-KWY-lee, and shock-you-ILL. “Anytime there’s a surrogate teacher,” Pariag says, “I done a diversion out of it. What are they going to call me?” And once they learn, each doubt is a same. Software developer Shaquille Brooks, 24, used to work in IT support. Roughly half of his 20 to 30 daily calls followed a same pattern:

Hello, my name is Shaquille, how might we assistance you?

“How high are you?”

“Do we play basketball?”

“Are we related?”


Shaquille Heath and WNBA breeze collect Schaquilla Nunn are explanation that Shaq's bequest isn't limited to one gender.

Shaquille Heath strode conflicting a runner and found her chair on a stage. It was May 1, 2015, during Weber State University, and for weeks a comparison open family vital had been rehearsing her source debate in front of a counterpart in her off-campus house. Still she felt nervous, even if one of her associate speakers was decidedly not. When she asked how many he had prepared, Damian Lillard coolly replied, “I haven’t. Just gonna go adult there and wing it.”

The laid-back Portland indicate ensure could be forgiven for ad-libbing; reduction than 36 hours earlier, Lillard and a Trail Blazers had been separated from a initial turn of a playoffs. But winging things was never Heath’s style. In high propagandize she was on a cavalcade group and edited a yearbook. She graduated from Weber State with a 3.98 GPA, summa cum laude, all A’s solely for an anthropology category that she retook after removing a B a initial time. “I’m an overachiever,” she says.

Behind a mike during Dee Events Center, she took a exhale and afterwards explained why. “Unfortunately, my birth relatives were drug addicts, and their obsession took over so many of my childhood,” Heath told a packaged crowd. “Sometimes we didn’t have a place to sleep. Sometimes we went hungry. And during many times we was alone.” On some turn these hardships dead over holiday mangle in eighth grade, when Heath began vital with her best friend’s family. But she never forgot a struggles. For improved or worse, her birth relatives helped figure her identity. They encouraged her to turn something different, to equivocate that life.

They also gave Heath her name.

“Oh, it was so annoying,” she says. “Everyone automatically insincere we was a boy.” At initial a teasing was embarrassing. One doofus in high propagandize propositioned her to “Shaq-attack his pants,” she recalls. “I was so mad. we was not carrying that.” (Other pickup lines she finds some-more creative, like a musician who tried, “If we be my Shaq, I’ll be your Kobe.”) Uber drivers are customarily taken aback when a 23-year-old lady climbs into their cars, notwithstanding her design appearing on a app. And utterly a difficulty influenced during Weber State when a graduation speakers were billed as “Shaq and Lillard.”

The span met before a ceremony. Heath snapped selfies and complimented a character of Lillard’s socks. He lifted an eyebrow on training her name nonetheless didn’t scrutinise further. If he had pressed, she might’ve told him what she satisfied over time: “It’s a f—— rad name,” she says. “So memorable, so popular. It’s a blessing. It creates me mount out.”

To Heath, being around Lillard offering a glance into her namesake’s world. “I do feel a outrageous tie with him,” she says of O’Neal. “I can’t tell we how many times I’ve decided, I’m going to twitter him for a true hour, and he’s going to have to see it and have to respond.”

Like on Apr 7, 2015, reduction than a month before graduation:

11:39 A.M.: Everyone always thinks I’m a male nonetheless on a contrary, we am a unequivocally tiny girl. @SHAQ

11:40: I attempted to play basketball in core school. we didn’t make a team. we siphon @SHAQ

11:42: Everyone we know calls me Shaq. They consider a a coolest name ever. So interjection for that. @SHAQ

11:44: When we was in initial grade- There was a child named Josh O’Neal. Everyone said- “If we guys get married, you’ll be Shaquille O’Neal!” @shaq

11:44: So of course, we hated him. @SHAQ

Shaq Mason is one of 4 Shaqs to have done a NFL, some-more than any other veteran sport.

Shaq Mason enters a Gillette Stadium media room on a sweaty late-April afternoon, 9 weeks private from a Patriots’ thespian Super Bowl LI win, in that New England took 99 descent snaps and Mason lined adult during right ensure for all of them. He distinguished by returning home to Columbia, Tenn., visiting family and reading Dr. Seuss books during his aged facile school. Someone suggested throwing a parade, nonetheless Mason nixed that idea. “I don’t need all that attention,” he says, nonetheless he did determine for Mar 4, 2017, to turn Shaq Mason Day.

Of course, had a city employed his full name, it would have been announced Shaquille Olajuwon Mason Day. “My mom was a outrageous basketball fan,” he explains with a shrug. When Mason was 12, he went to a Grizzlies-Heat diversion in Memphis. Hanging out courtside, someone spied his array 32 black Miami jersey. “What’s your name?” a male asked. Before Mason knew it, he was jolt hands with O’Neal.

Because a Patriots non-stop a 2015 deteriorate on a Thursday night, Mason narrowly warranted a respect of apropos a initial Shaquille to seem in an NFL game, violence Thompson by 3 days. A five-star football awaiting out of Sacramento—and an 18th-round collect by a Red Sox—Thompson would hunt himself on recruiting websites and constantly find other Shaqs. “Damn!” he recalls thinking, reduction bummed out than bowled over, “there are some-more out there!”

Only a name few have grown into veteran athletes. No Shaqs have nonetheless seemed in a NHL, Olympics or MLB. Only four—Mason, Thompson, Bills defensive finish Shaq Lawson and Broncos linebacker Shaquil Barrett, who won a initial Shaquille Super Bowl ring by violence Thompson’s Panthers in 2016—have done a NFL. College contingency are better; lists 39 Division we football players and 23 D-I basketball players named Shaquille, Shaq, or some phonetic derivation.

Though dual have matched adult for D-League squads, a NBA too stays blank of successive Shaquilles. In fact, customarily one has ever been drafted into a vital North American pro basketball league: Schaquilla Nunn, a third-round collect by a WNBA’s San Antonio Stars this April. “I adore my name,” says Nunn, a brazen who played during Winthrop and Tennessee. “The customarily thing that we would never settle for was being called Shaq. we consider people perplexing to press that on me, call me by that name—that’s not who we am. It customarily doesn’t fit me.”

Reaching a tip turn means entrance into an disdainful club. Benefits: entrance to a Original. When Mason played during Georgia Tech, he visited O’Neal during TNT’s Inside a NBA studio in Atlanta, and a dual exchanged numbers. After Super Bowl 50, O’Neal strike adult Thompson on Twitter. “He was like, ‘Good to see we holding it down for a Shaqs,’ ” Thompson says. “I undo each message, nonetheless we overtly wish we still had that one.”

To O’Neal, staying in hold is important. When he was their age, conversations with Jerry West and Magic Johnson and Bill Russell prepped him for celebrity and success. So he watches a Shaquilles closely. “I see what they’re going through,” he says. “I try to give them tips. If we can assistance these guys turn a best ever, I’d like to do it.”

Shaquilles Alexander, O'Neal and Brewster met adult before Game 4 of a NBA Finals in Cleveland.

Shaquille Alexander and Shaquille Brewster were sum strangers until assembly mins ago, nonetheless they fast find common belligerent in this sixth-floor discussion room during a Westin Cleveland. For one thing, both have been victimized by typos. When Alexander was adopted by his uncle, a control papers pronounced Shaquilla. Brewster’s birth certificate duration reads Shaqville, that sounds like some refuge city for all a namesakes to commiserate.

“I hatred how people pronounce it,” Alexander says. “I got Shaniqua once.”

“Do we get a people who ask, Is it O.K. if we call we Shaq?” asks Brewster.

“Someone during my part-time pursuit uses a prolonged a. Very good lady, nonetheless she calls me Shake.”

“This is like therapy.”

“People articulate about if we play basketball, about how I’m high nonetheless not high adequate . . . ” Alexander’s voice trails off. He looks during a door. “Omigod. There he is.”

The Summit of Shaquilles—arranged for this article—has begun. With O’Neal already in Cleveland for Game 4 of a NBA Finals on Jun 9, a call went out for area namesakes. An NBC News writer formed in Chicago, Brewster, 24, was reserved to cover a Cavs-Warriors array anyway nonetheless hustled true from a airport. Dressed in a purple Lakers jacket, Alexander, 21, gathering dual hours from Columbus, where he coaches high propagandize football and majors in financial during Otterbein University, for a “chance of a lifetime.”

Every day brings word of more. Shaq Morris declared for a NBA breeze nonetheless an representative nonetheless withdrew before a deadline and will lapse to Wichita State for his comparison season; Shaquill Griffin went 90th altogether to a Seahawks in April. Recently O’Neal found a rapper named ShaqKills and designed to strech out like he did with Baptiste. He had never met a womanlike Shaquille until discussion about Heath’s fatuous Twitter efforts. So he dialed her on FaceTime, right there in a discussion room.

“Say hello,” he says, indicating a phone toward Alexander. “His name is Shaquille.” And afterwards during Brewster. “That’s another Shaquille. Option No. 2…

“Wanna make history?”

No, he’s not a customarily hoopster with thousands of progenies using around; Kobe has lived in a Social Security Administration’s tip 600 for a past dual decades, and Jalen became extravagantly renouned after Michigan’s Fab Five era. But O’Neal has embraced his epoch like no one else. “When we was entrance up, it wasn’t a common name,” he says. “It was arrange of like a weird name. we theory relatives saw somebody who was likable, someone who was real. Just respected to have them named after me, youngsters with a same aspirations and dreams.”

Alexander was innate in Apr 1996, a tail finish of a boom, when a name spent a final year in a SSA’s tip 1,000 rankings. But maybe Shaquille will make a comeback. As O’Neal lumbers divided to Quicken Loans Arena for Game 4, Alexander reaches an epiphany:

“Got to name my child Shaq Jr.”

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