Shareef O’Neal worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this week — almost exactly 18 years after his dad, Shaquille, played his last game for the Purple and Gold.
Shareef wore No. 6 on his back on Tuesday, hoping his favorite player LeBron James “doesn’t get mad” that he borrowed the Lakers All-Star’s jersey number. The LSU alum is trying to kickstart his professional career after three injury-ridden years in college, going through the NBA Draft process against Shaq’s wishes.
He has showcased his skills for a few teams, including the Milwaukee Bucks and the Cleveland Cavaliers. However, Shareef said it felt special to put on a purple and gold jersey considering his ties to the franchise.
“You know, I walked in today and I was kind of starstruck,” the 6-foot-10 forward said. “I was really born into this team. My dad and Kobe won championships when I was born and now it’s me putting on the Lakers gear. That was crazy. I was speechless, kind of. I’ve never been to this facility before, I’ve been to the old one.
“It’s such a blessing for a team I grew up watching. My dad won championships with this team and now that I have on Lakers stuff, it’s amazing. It’s a dream come true.”
Shareef points out he’s carving his own path to a successful career. Unlike his dad — who entered the league as the No. 1 pick in 1992 — the forward might not even get to hear his name being called when the 2022 NBA Draft takes place on Thursday night.
Health issues seriously impeded the 22-year-old’s college career, making his ratings tumble despite coming out of high school as a four-star prospect. Still, Shareef won’t escape comparisons to his dad — however, the young O’Neal said, he’s learned how to live with it.
“One thing about me, I don’t really keep the word pressure in my vocabulary,” Shareef said. “Pressure does make diamonds. I feel like me and him have a whole different story now. I went through some things that he didn’t go through. He was the No. 1 pick in the draft and I kind of had to grind to get here. I had to grind a lot.
“I had to go through some stuff these last four years – foot injuries, heart surgeries – and I don’t really look to be in his shadow. I know it’s always going to be there, a comparison. Every kid is going to be compared to their dad who does the same thing as them. That’s going to be there.
“It doesn’t bother me. I don’t really believe in pressure. I feel like I play my own style of game. Me and him are different players. He was back down, back down, dunk on you, 7’1”, 300 pounds. I’m 6’10”, 215 pounds. I don’t play that backdown game. The bigs in the league now bring the ball down and shoot threes. I think he only had one three in his whole career.
“No disrespect but you have to be able to knock a shot down now. I feel like I play a whole different game than he does.”
Syracuse’s Cole Swider discusses draft hopes after second workout with Lakers
Syracuse’s Cole Swider joined Shareef during L.A.’s final pre-draft workout. The Lakers called Swider back for another session after they saw him in action in late May.
After the workout, Swider said he thinks the Lakers could be “a great fit” for him. “Yeah, I mean, I think for me, it’s just looking for the best opportunity possible,” Swider added.
“If that’s getting drafted if that’s going undrafted. I just want an opportunity and be with an organization where they value me, play my skill set, and work with me until my deficiencies.”
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