Rewinding the Charts: In 1993, Shaquille O'Neal Scored Off the Court

Shaquille O'Neal in 1996
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc

Shaquille O'Neal during 1996 MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles.

The NBA champ and Basketball Hall of Famer enjoyed a successful stint as a rapper beginning in 1993.

NOT MANY PEOPLE CAN SAY THEY'VE DONE it all, but Shaquille O'Neal has as good a case as anyone. The NBA all-star and champion, actor, TV host, video game character, soda entrepreneur, children's book author and reserve police officer also forged a successful rap career in the 1990s.

In October 1993, at the age of 21, the 7-foot-1 Orlando Magic center dropped his debut album, Shaq Diesel, on Jive Records. Just a few months earlier, O'Neal had been named the NBA's rookie of the year following his first season with the Florida team, and his freshman outing in the music industry would prove similarly successful.

Shaq Diesel peaked at No. 10 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart dated Nov. 20, 1993 and No. 25 on the Billboard 200. It also spawned three top 10 tracks on the Hot Rap Songs chart – including "(I Know I Got) Skillz" – and sold 865,000 copies in the U.S., accord­ing to Nielsen Music.

O'Neal went on to release three more studio albums, his last, Respect, in 1998. A fourth, Shaquille O'Neal Presents His Superfriends, Vol. 1, was scrapped in 2001, the same year he told Billboard he had trouble maintaining credibility as an artist because he was a famous athlete. "I take this music-business stuff very seriously. I don't do it for the money or the publicity, and it's not like a 'Super Bowl Shuffle' type of rap or 'Weird Al' Yankovic," he said. "For Ludacris, a [Dr.] Dre, and a Snoop [Dogg] to come in the studio and say, 'I'll get on your album,' that tells me I already made it. I've never done nothing whack."

The divorced father of five retired from the NBA in 2011 and has since worked as a sports commentator – he currently hosts The Big Podcast with Shaq – and invested in various business ventures. In June, the U.S. Department of State announced that O'Neal, now 44, will serve as its first sports envoy to Cuba. On Sept. 9, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.


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