This spring Shaquille O’Neal earned his doctorate degree in Organizational Learning and Leadership from Barry University the old fashioned way: by spending his days in a library instead of on a basketball court. No honorary degree for this guy!
“I’m as proud of this as anything I have accomplished in my life,” O’Neal wrote in an article for USA Today.
Wait, wait, wait. Is he really saying that earning a little piece of paper is as important to him as his career in the NBA? What would make someone think that way?
“I was fortunate to have a mother who understood the value of education, even as she saw me join the NBA,” he continued. “…My mom knew that education not only would help me down the road, it also would make me a better person.”
O’Neal was studying for his bachelor’s degree at Louisiana State University when he was drafted into the NBA. He was in his junior year and only had a few more classes to take before he would have his bachelor’s degree. Instead of giving up on his education and focusing only on his career in the NBA, he took correspondence classes in order to earn his degree.
O’Neal continued on to say that too many of today’s youth are not earning a higher education and that this needs to change because education is something that will help you for your entire life. Many young athletes dream of following O’Neal’s path and making it to the professional sporting arenas. Most do not succeed, and then what should they do? O’Neal says they should go to school. So does this mean that the handful who do succeed should not go to school? O’Neal says that is not the case at all because “a career in athletics is fleeting – education isn’t.”
“Education matters,” he said. “It instills self-discipline. It exposes a person to a world of shared knowledge. It forces us to stay attuned to current events. And most important, it helps each of us understand how and where we fit into this world.”
I think that O’Neal’s story is really inspiring. It’s a nice change to see a celebrity saying that education really is important, instead of one saying that money is.