Shaquille O’Neal: Basketball Star and. . . HR Scholar?

April 10, 2019 by Josh Hrala

Shaquille O’Neal scored 28,596 points during his famed 19-year-long NBA career, entering into the pop culture zeitgeist in the process. He’s starred in movies, has had a video game made about him, and has some great nicknames to match (Shaq Fu, Shaqtus), but did you know that he is also fond of HR?

Fond might be too light of a word, though, because back in 2012, Shaq earned a doctored in education with a focus on organizational learning and leadership, which is a really long title that can be summed as this: Shaq has a doctorate degree in HR.

Yes, one of the biggest basketball stars to ever live went back to school to earn an HR degree. And he did it for his mom.

“This is for my mother, who always stressed the importance of education,” Shaq said, according to CNN.

“I am proud to have achieved a doctoral degree and wish to thank my professors and Barry University for helping make this dream a reality. I’m smart enough to know that, even at my tender age, my pursuit of education is never finished.”

Shaq earned his degree from Florida’s Barry University, working mostly online and through video conference (he’s a busy guy, after all). When all was said and done, Shaq completed all 16 courses and carried a GPA of 3.81. Not too shabby. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University and an MBA.


“For the past four-and-half years, O’Neal pursued his doctoral degree in education while juggling the roles of athlete, student and entrepreneur,” Barry University said in a statement, according to CNN.

“He completed the requirements of the doctoral program while adhering to the grueling NBA schedule prior to his retirement last year as well as fulfilling commitments in broadcasting and business.”

In typical Shaq fashion, he focused his degree on humor. Specifically, how great business leaders and CEOs use humor in the workplace. He then proceeded to show off his sense of humor by lifting up his professor during his graduation ceremony.

“During the ceremony, which was held in downtown Miami’s James L. Knight Center, O’Neal knelt so that department chair David Kopp could place the light blue doctoral hood around O’Neal’s shoulders,” reported Tim Newcomb from Time Magazine.

“The crowd erupted when O’Neal then lifted his professor into the air.”

Know any other famous celebrities that have a background in Human Resources? We’d love to know about it!

(Header Image Credit: Tina Hager/WikiMedia Commons)

Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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