O'Neal playing for the Celtics.
|Position Power forward|
|Born October 13, 1978 |
Columbia, South Carolina
|Listed height 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m)|
|Listed weight 255 lbs (116 kg)|
|High school Eau Claire (Columbia, South Carolina)|
|NBA Draft 1996 / Round: 1 / Pick: 17th|
|Selected by the Portland Trail Blazers|
|Pro career 1996–2014 (18 years)|
|1996–2000 Portland Trail Blazers|
|2000–2008 Indiana Pacers|
|2008–2009 Toronto Raptors|
|2009–2010 Miami Heat|
|2010–2012 Boston Celtics|
|2012–2013 Phoenix Suns|
|2013–2014 Golden State Warriors|
|Career highlights and awards|
Early life and high school career
Jermaine O'Neal was born on October 13, 1978, in Columbia, South Carolina. Raised single-handedly by his mother, Angela Ocean, O'Neal also had an elder brother, Clifford. Ocean worked hard to support her sons, and left her children largely to their own devices. O'Neal found his love for athletics at a young age. Tall and quick, he enjoyed both football and basketball, but basketball was his favorite sport. Two of his basketball heroes were Hakeem Olajuwon and Bill Russell; O'Neal often marveled at the former's approach to the game, while he loved watching the latter's video highlights of his duels with Wilt Chamberlain.
O'Neal also played a lot of basketball. Each summer, he would play for an AAU team, and impressed onlookers with his athleticism and his ability to handle the ball with both hands. By the time he turned 14, the 6'4" O'Neal—now a confident guard who could drain three-pointers—entered Eau Claire High School of the Arts as a freshman in 1992. On his first meeting with basketball coach George Glymph, he made the bold promise to become the best player in the school's history. While O'Neal's first season was hardly noteworthy (he even played as quarterback for the Eau Claire team) things changed when he grew five inches over the next year and a half, and he was inspired to develop into a defensive powerhouse like his idol Russell. Glymph built his team's defense around O'Neal, and Eau Claire featured one of the most imposing frontcourts around. With O'Neal averaging 18 points, 12 rebounds and 9 blocks a game, Eau Claire captured its third straight 3A state title in 1995.
The following July, the 16-year-old was to raise his profile yet again. At an ABCD summer basketball camp, he outplayed Tim Thomas, a rising star at that time. Before long, recruiting letters from various top colleges came pouring in. O'Neal, however, also faced great pressure off the court. That same year, the District Attorney contemplated prosecuting him for rape after he and his 15-year-old girlfriend were found partially nude in bed together by her father. The DA eventually did not prosecute O'Neal, but as the latter struggled to cope with the pressure on and off the court, Glymph stepped in, introducing discipline to his life and keeping his feet to the ground. At the same time, O'Neal's mother had met a new man, Abraham Kennedy, who also guided O'Neal along.
In his senior season at Eau Claire, O'Neal's averages of 22.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 5.2 blocks per game ensured that he was voted First Team All-State, South Carolina’s Player of the Year and "Mr. Basketball". Named to USA Today’s All-USA Basketball Team, he earned a spot in the McDonald's All-America Game as well. Despite being one of the nation’s top prospects, O'Neal's future in college basketball was uncertain. He scored poorly on the SATs, and Glymph advised against him making the leap to the NBA. But it was only a year before that another South Carolinian—future NBA All-Star Kevin Garnett—had made a seamless transition from high school to the NBA, and O'Neal thought he could emulate Garnett.
Portland Trail Blazers
O'Neal was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers as the 17th pick in the 1996 NBA Draft. The rookie was surrounded by veterans and emerging stars who could show him the ropes in Portland; forming the frontcourt with him were Arvydas Sabonis, Rasheed Wallace and Clifford R. Robinson. After missing the first 17 games with a bone contusion in his knee, O'Neal made his debut against the Denver Nuggets in December. At 18 years, one month and 22 days, he became the youngest player to play in an NBA game (a mark that has since been eclipsed by Andrew Bynum). Portland was mediocre in the first half of the campaign, but came to form as the playoffs approached and managed to finish third in the Pacific Division with a 49–33 win-loss record. While fans at the Rose Garden harbored thoughts of an upset against the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs, the Trail Blazers succumbed in four games. In O'Neal's first season, he appeared in a total of 45 games in the regular season, averaging 4.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game. For the most part, however, he came off the bench and only averaged 10.2 minutes a game. O'Neal doubted for a while if he had made the right decision to skip college—he watched with envy as good friend and fellow prep-to-pro draftee Kobe Bryant was enjoying a good rookie season—but he remained confident that the best had yet to come.
Despite his optimism, O'Neal found it difficult to break into the first team the following season. Brian Grant was acquired from free agency and new coach Mike Dunleavy planned to use Sabonis, Wallace and Grant as the starting frontcourt, while the presence of veteran Gary Trent also further reduced the sophomore's chances. Thus, O'Neal was not given meaningful minutes in the early part of the campaign, although he showed glimpses of his potential with occasional double double performances when he returned from an early-season injury. Portland eventually produced a similar win-loss record as the preceding season with 46 wins, finishing fourth in the division. In the playoffs, Dunleavy opted to go with a more youthful lineup: before the trade deadline, he had acquired point guard Damon Stoudamire, as well as forwards Carlos Rogers and Walt Williams. The move was designed to bolster the team's chances in the playoffs against teams that were bigger and more physical. Nevertheless, for the second time in two years, the Trail Blazers were eliminated by the Lakers in four games in the first round. And just like the season before, O'Neal hardly featured for Portland, playing only three minutes in one game.
The 1998–99 season was initially disrupted for several months following an impasse in the collective bargaining negotiations. In the end, the league scaled down to a 50-game schedule, and Portland capitalized on the shortened campaign. Boasting one of the league's most balanced squads that also had strength in depth, the Trail Blazers chalked up an impressive 35–15 record and topped the division. Dunleavy—who would later be named NBA Coach of the Year—led his club into the playoffs aiming to capture the franchise's first NBA title since 1977. After sweeping the Phoenix Suns 3–0 in the first round, Portland defeated the Utah Jazz 4–2 to set up a showdown with the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. In Game 2, a 3-pointer by Sean Elliott in the closing seconds gave the Spurs as 86–85 win and propelled San Antonio to win the series (the Spurs went on to win the NBA championship). O'Neal's disappointment at losing in the Conference Finals was compounded by the fact that his regular season minutes had dropped to fewer than 10 a game for the first time, and that his contributions to the team were mostly insignificant to begin with. He was having increasing doubts about his NBA career.
In an unexpected move, Portland showed their willingness to invest in O'Neal by offering him a four-year contract worth $24 million. However, the new deal did not translate into more playing time for the power forward in the 1999–2000 season. Portland acquired Detlef Schrempf and Steve Smith during the 1999 offseason, which meant that O'Neal was once again consigned to the bench. His statistics remained unimpressive, averaging 3.9 points and 3.3 rebounds per game during the regular season. In the meantime, the Trail Blazers continued to build on the success of their previous campaign. They notched 59 wins in the regular season, and defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Utah Jazz en route to reaching the Western Conference Finals. Up against recent perennial rivals the Los Angeles Lakers, the team relinquished a 15 point lead in the fourth quarter of the pivotal Game 7, and lost 89–85. Not that O'Neal was heavily involved in any of this, however. With back-to-back Conference Finals disappointments coupled with a lack of playing time, he soon announced his intention to be traded. The Trail Blazers relented in the end and sent him to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for NBA All-Star Dale Davis. This move was greeted with surprise by the Indiana fans as the Pacers had just came off an appearance in the 2000 NBA Finals, and the trade involved losing a quality player for an unproven quantity in O'Neal. The Pacers roster also saw the departures of Mark Jackson, Rik Smits and Chris Mullin, and even coach Larry Bird stepped down. All of this meant that O'Neal arrived in Indianapolis facing intense pressure and scrutiny.
When O'Neal arrived at his new club, new coach Isiah Thomas—who had pushed for the O'Neal/Davis trade—told him that he simply needed to work harder on his game to succeed. At that time, Indiana was rebuilding and still revolved around veteran All-Star Reggie Miller. O'Neal turned out to be a revelation for his new club and it was not long before he established himself as a key player for his new team. Starting in 80 of the 81 regular season games he played in for the 2000–01 season, his statistics improved significantly as he averaged 12.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. The big man helped his team to a 41–41 record and the eighth playoff seed; he also led the league in total blocks (228, a franchise record), and led the Eastern Conference in double doubles. O'Neal kept up his form into the playoffs as well, averaging almost 9.8 points and 12.5 boards a game in the first round against the Philadelphia 76ers, although the series was short-lived as the latter emerged victorious in four games.
The 2001–02 season proved to be the breakthrough season for O'Neal as he earned a trio of honors: winning the NBA Most Improved Player Award, being named an NBA All-Star, and making the All-NBA Third Team (becoming the second Pacer in history to do so after Reggie Miller). Leading his team in scoring (19.0) and rebounding (10.5), he chalked up 39 double doubles, which was third best in the conference and eighth best in the league. Indiana recorded 42 wins and qualified for the playoffs once again as the eighth seed, where they faced one of the hottest teams in the league at that time, the New Jersey Nets. The Pacers pushed the Nets all the way to Game 5, and even forced overtime twice, but the Nets prevailed in the end. The Nets had put Kenyon Martin on O'Neal after the latter put up a 30 point, 11 rebound performance in Game 1, and they succeeded in limiting him to just 17.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game over the series. As the Pacers reflected on yet another premature end to the postseason, they knew that O'Neal was next in line to succeed the 36-year-old Miller as the new face of the franchise. At the same time, the Pacers seemed to have found players in Brad Miller, Ron Artest, Al Harrington and Jamal Tinsley who complemented O'Neal. Indiana was on the brink of becoming a legitimate threat in the East.
The Pacers started the 2002–03 season well, winning 14 of their first 16 games, and had the best record in the East by the time the All-Star break arrived. The same team from the year before was playing better than ever, but the season fell apart in the latter half. For one, Brad Miller got injured and Indiana lost one of their most versatile players. Defensive lynchpin Artest suffered from too many emotional outbursts and this further hurt the Pacers, who could only finish the season 48–34. On his part, O'Neal kept up his All-Star numbers, averaging 20.8 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, being only one of three players in the NBA that year to pull off a 20/10. He was voted Eastern Conference Player of the Month twice, in January and April, and would go on to be named to the All-NBA Third Team again by the season's end. With no momentum heading into the playoffs, however, the Pacers were eliminated 4–2 by underdogs Boston Celtics, marking a first-round elimination for the third year in a row. Off the court, the team had also been facing family problems. Brad Miller's father-in-law and Tinsley's mother passed away during the season, and just before the playoffs, O'Neal's stepfather attempted suicide. When the season ended, O'Neal tried to keep his focus on basketball and considered the possibility of joining another team since he was now a free agent. The San Antonio Spurs, led by two-time NBA Champion Tim Duncan, looked an interesting proposition as perennial All-Star David Robinson had just retired. Much as it was tempting for O'Neal to make the switch, he opted not to uproot his family and signed a seven-year, $126 million contract with the Pacers. Even so, the offseason produced a few surprises for O'Neal when Isiah Thomas was replaced by Rick Carlisle, and Brad Miller left for the Sacramento Kings. Indiana was undergoing rebuilding yet again.
Despite all the changes, O'Neal spearheaded the Pacers to a league-best 61–21 record in the 2003–04 season. He remained a constant double-double threat, averaging 20.1 points and 10.0 rebounds a game in the regular season. He also continued to rack up individual honors, making his third All-Star trip and being named to the All-NBA Second Team. Artest was instrumental to the team's success too as he enjoyed a breakthrough season, netting his first All-Star berth as well as the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. In the playoffs, Indiana gained revenge from the preceding season by sweeping Boston in the first round, before defeating the Miami Heat in the next. That sent them back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the sixth time in 11 years, where they were disposed of by eventual NBA champions Detroit Pistons. In the series-deciding Game 6, O'Neal endured a sprained knee and managed to tally 20 points and 10 rebounds, but Rip Hamilton's inspired play ensured a close victory for the Pistons.
The Pacers looked to build on their previous campaign in the 2004–05 season, but all their plans came apart in November. In a game against the Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills, a brawl broke out that spilled into the stands. O'Neal was one of the Pacers who fought with some of the fans and was suspended for 25 games by NBA Commissioner David Stern; team mates Artest and Stephen Jackson were suspended for the rest of the season and 30 games respectively. Following an appeal just before Christmas, O'Neal won a ten-game reduction in his sentence, but this did not mitigate the damage that Indiana had already suffered. Stripped of three of its core players, the team hobbled to a 44–38 record and the sixth seed. O'Neal appeared in only 44 games, his lowest total ever with Indiana. Although his scoring average improved to 24.3 points per game, his rebounding dropped and he was no longer the same intimidating presence on defense. Things worsened when he sprained his right shoulder in March. He played sparingly for the remainder of the regular season, hoping to recover in time for the playoffs. The Pacers drew the Celtics in the first round, and managed to salvage their season by winning the series 4–3. O'Neal, however, was not playing as well as he could have: his offensive output dropped, and he shot poorly from the field. When the Pacers met the Pistons in the semifinals, they were eliminated in six games, capping yet another frustrating season for O'Neal.
O'Neal continued his battle against injuries during the 2005–06 season, and played in only 51 games. Nevertheless, he averaged a team-high 20.1 points and 9.3 rebounds a game. He was voted by the fans as the starting forward for the Eastern Conference All-Star team (he was later replaced by Gilbert Arenas due to injury). The Pacers entered the playoffs as the sixth seed. They eventually lost to the New Jersey Nets in six games.
O'Neal missed 13 more games in the 2006–07 season as the Pacers missed the playoffs altogether.
O'Neal missed huge amounts of time, especially towards the end of the season, as the Pacers struggled to compete. O'Neal's production and stats declined as well. He had two years and $44 million left on his deal. The Pacers were looking to move the huge contract. On June 25 2008, it was reported that O'Neal and the 41st pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, Nathan Jawai would be sent to Toronto for T. J. Ford, Rasho Nesterovič, Maceo Baston and the 17th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, Roy Hibbert. The trade was finalized on July 9, 2008.
O'Neal was given jersey #6 for the Raptors since his number with the Pacers (#7) was already owned by Andrea Bargnani. While he was expected to combine with Toronto's three-time All-Star Chris Bosh to form a strong frontcourt and provide greater rebounding and interior defense for the Raptors, O'Neal's arrival was dwarved by the Elton Brand signing pulled off by division rivals Philadelphia. O'Neal wasted no time in imposing his style on his new team: in the season opener at Philadelphia, he pointed to hecklers in the home crowd after making a dunk; in the team's second game, Toronto's center blocked a dunk from Golden State's Brandan Wright and thereafter waved a finger, as though to say "Don't come back here again." Even so, it took O'Neal some time to find his offensive game: he reached the 20-point mark twice in his first 23 games, before notching three straight thereafter. By the All-Star break, injuries had ruled the big man out for almost a quarter of Toronto's games, while Bargnani regained his starting spot with a streak of solid performances.
Following his breakout season in 2000–01, O'Neal earned a spot on Team USA for the 2001 Goodwill Games. The Americans won all of their five games and the gold medal, and O'Neal led the team in blocks and shooting percentage, while finishing second in points and rebounds. The 2002 NBA Most Improved Player was selected to represent his nation again in the 2002 World Basketball Championship which was held in Indianapolis. This time round, the Americans had a lackluster tournament, and could only finish sixth. O'Neal averaged 7.3 points and 4.5 rebounds over eight games. The next year, Team USA staged a comeback in the 2003 Tournament of the Americas. Winning all its ten games and the gold medal, the team qualified for the 2004 Olympics. O'Neal featured in every game in that tournament, averaging 11.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest. While he was earmarked as a core member of the team that would compete in the Olympics, a knee injury prevented him from participating in the games.
O'Neal is known for his outspokenness on race in the NBA. After the NBA enacted its controversial age-limit to enter the NBA Draft, O'Neal told reporters that he felt that race was a factor on why the NBA has a different standard than other professional sports leagues like the National Hockey League (NHL) or the Major League Baseball (MLB) (where players frequently enter the draft immediately after high school).
- Second Team: 2004
- Third Team: 2002, 2003
- NBA Most Improved Player Award: 2002
- NBA Magic Johnson Award: 2004
- Holds the Pacers franchise records for:
- Most blocks in a game: 10 (January 22 2003 vs. the Toronto Raptors)
- Most blocks in a season: 228 (2000–01)
- Most rebounds in a playoffs game: 22 (April 29 2003 vs. Boston Celtics)
- Highest rebounding average in a playoff series: 17.5 (2003 Eastern Conference First Round vs. Boston Celtics)
- Most free throws attempted in a game: 25 (January 4 2005 vs. the Milwaukee Bucks)
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Koreen, Eric, "O'Neal era begins in Toronto", nationalpost.com, 8 July 2008, accessed 5 August 2008.
- ↑ 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Jermaine O'Neal Bio, jockbio.com, accessed 4 August 2008.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 JockBio: Jermaine O'Neal Facts, jockbio.com, accessed 4 August 2008.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Jermaine O'Neal Bio, nba,com, accessed 4 August 2008.
- ↑ Andrew Bynum Bio, nba.com, accessed 13 August 2008.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 1996-97 NBA Season Summary, basketball-reference.com, accessed 13 August 2008.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 Jermaine O'Neal Career Stats, nba.com, accessed 13 August 2008.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 1997-98 NBA Season Summary, basketball-reference.com, accessed 14 August 2008.
- ↑ Spurs Tower Over NBA, nba,com/history, accessed 14 August 2008.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 1998-99 NBA Season Summary, basketball-reference.com, accessed 14 August 2008.
- ↑ Mike Dunleavy, nba.com, accessed 15 August 2008.
- ↑ Elliott's 3-pointer gives Spurs 86-85 win over Blazers, sportsillustrated.cnn.com, 2 June 1999, accessed 15 August 2008.
- ↑ 13.0 13.1 13.2 Blazers Acquire Davis From Pacers, query.nytimes.com, 1 September 2008, accessed 18 August 2008.
- ↑ 1999-00 NBA Season Summary, basketball-reference.com, accessed 15 August 2008.
- ↑ Blazers' dry spell allows Lakers to take Game 7, sportsillustrated.cnn.com, 5 June 2000, accessed 15 August 2008.
- ↑ 16.0 16.1 16.2 Montieth, Mark, "O'Neal voted most improved", usatoday.com, 25 April 2002, accessed 15 August 2008.
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 Berkow, Ira, "The Phenomenon Who Came Back", query.nytimes.com, 20 February 2003, accessed 18 August 2008.
- ↑ 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 18.7 Year by Year with the Pacers, pacers.com, accessed 17 August 2008.
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 2000–01 NBA season Summary, basketball-reference.com, accessed 17 August 2008.
- ↑ 20.0 20.1 2001-02 NBA Season Summary, basketball-reference.com, accessed 31 August 2008.
- ↑ 21.0 21.1 21.2 2002-03 Indiana Pacers, basketball-reference.com, accessed 1 September 2008.
- ↑ 22.0 22.1 Historical Moments, sportsecyclopedia.com, accessed 2 September 2008.
- ↑ 23.0 23.1 Smith, Doug, "Hard times made Raptor O'Neal a family man", Toronto Star, 29 October 2008.
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 Jermaine O'Neal, basketball-reference.com, accessed 30 September 2008.
- ↑ 25.0 25.1 2003-04 NBA Season Summary, basketball-reference.com, accessed 16 September 2008.
- ↑ Pistons Send Pacers Packing, nba.com, 1 June 2004, accessed 16 September 2008.
- ↑ 27.0 27.1 27.2 2004-05 NBA Season Summary, basketball-reference.com, accessed 26 September 2008.
- ↑ ESPN - Arenas All-Star replacement for Pacers' O'Neal - NBA, sports.espn.go.com, accessed 4 August 2008.
- ↑ Sources: Pacers agree to O'Neal-for-Ford swap with Raptors, sports.espn.go.com, accessed 4 August 2008.
- ↑ Smith, Doug, "O'Neal likes Raptors chances of 'doing great things' this year", thestar.com, 29 September 2008, accessed 30 September 2008.
- ↑ Schuhmann, John, "2008-09 Season Preview: Toronto Raptors, nba.com, accessed 28 October 2008.
- ↑ Schuuhmann, John, "The Numbers Game: Who will help most?", nba.com, 29 October 2008, accessed 3 November 2008.
- ↑ Schuhmann, John, "Raptors' dynamic duo trumps Brand's Philly debut", nba.com, 29 October 2008, accessed 31 October 2008.
- ↑ Feschuk, Dave, "Raptors' O'Neal silences the hecklers", Toronto Star, 30 October 2008.
- ↑ Grange, Michael, "Raptors rolling after OT win", Globe and Mail, 1 November 2008.
- ↑ Dubow, John, "http://www.globesports.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081227.wsptraptors26/GSStory/GlobeSportsBasketball/home", globesports.com, 27 December 2008, accessed 27 December 2008.
- ↑ 37.0 37.1 FOURTEENTH WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP -- 2002, usabasketball.com, accessed 31 August 2008.
- ↑ 38.0 38.1 MEN'S TOURNAMENT OF THE AMERICAS -- 2003, usabasketball.com, accessed 20 September 2008.