This joke’s too easy, but we gotta bite. Shaquille O’Neal is the true definition of Big Man on Campus.
Locals may recall the former Miami Heat power center received his doctorate in education amid much fanfare from Barry University at the James L. Knight Center back in spring 2012.
For such a famous basketball star, he sure has hit the books hard: the 43-year-old attended Louisiana State University as a business major from 1989 to 1992, before leaving to enter the NBA draft. O’Neal returned to LSU to nab a degree in 2000, then an MBA online from the University of Phoenix.
The New Jersey native is especially appreciative of his time at Barry, which is throwing a fundraiser Saturday night at Soho Studios in Wynwood to celebrate the Miami Shores institution’s 75th birthday. The BMOC will play host at the retro-style gala, with a supper-club theme. Guests will be wined and dined as well as entertained by Grammy winners Wyclef Jean and Betty Wright, performing songs from 1940 to today.
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“I’ve already lined up my black and white Zoot suit with the chain hanging out the side,” laughs Shaq, who retired from the sport with the Boston Celtics in 2011. “It’s gonna be nice. I may do some off-the-cuff jokes, we’ll see.”
Asked why he went full tilt with his studies over the years when he could have just as easily enjoyed the rich-and-famous ride, the four-time NBA champ answers like the true legend he is.
His motto: no excuses.
“I just put it in my mind that this was something I was going to do,” says O’Neal. “You could be one of those people who have a negative attitude, but you commit, realize everyone is watching, and make sure you do it correctly. [Education] is part of my success story.”
There were a few blips along the way. O’Neal admits that during his time at Barry, he once turned in a less than stellar work and paid the price with a mediocre grade.
“They wouldn’t let me cakewalk,” O’Neal says. “I remember I was tired, having one of those days. I did a half-ass paper and got a C. Dr. [David] Kopp was like, ‘What is this?’ And I said, ‘It’s a C, a C is good.’ He said, ‘C is not good.’ I redid it and ended up with an A.”
If you attend the $500 a head bash, count on a free selfie with the 7-foot-1 TNT commentator.
“I’m just a regular guy,” says O’Neal, who was sworn in as a reserve police officer at the Doral police department in January. “I”m not stuck up. Just come on over.”
Tickets: Call 305-981-1156 or go to www.Barry.edu/75.
Follow the writer @madeleinemarr