Shaquille O'Neal doesn't know much about his biological father because he doesn't want to know much about his biological father. Joseph Toney struggled with addiction and was arrested for drug possession when Shaq was a baby, and the two have never spoken. O'Neal claims his dad as Phillip Harrison, the man who remarried Shaq's mother after Toney's arrest, and claims that Harrison built him into the man he is today. Pretty serious stuff.
It turns out Mr. Harrison might have been a little over-the-top in his treatment of his son though. Ben Golliver of CBS Sports relays the story from Jackie MacMullan, who helped Shaq write his new autobiography Shaq Uncut.
But Jackie MacMullan, the long-time NBA writer who authored the book with O'Neal says that O'Neal the aggressor has gotten far more play than O'Neal the victim, a role that figures prominently in his autobiography.
During an interview on Jason Whitlock's FoxSports.com podcast, MacMullan described how Phillip Harrison, Shaquille O'Neal's father, who was a staff sergeant in the United States Army, repeatedly physically abused the NBA legend during his childhood.
"It gets lost in the shuffle because people want to talk about Kobe, Pat Riley, and LeBron and all these other famous people," MacMullan says, "but another fascinating part of this book is his father. 'Sarge,' Phillip Harrison, who, frankly, abused him all the way through his life. Physically abused him, beat the living daylights out of him at every turn."
Shaq claims not to be affected too much from all of this, and seems to think that Harrison meant well. But you wonder if his struggles to develop strong personal relationships with anyone in the league stem from the problems he had early on as a child with his father. Physical abuse is something that's very difficult to overcome.
It does remind you that the Big Fella used to be little, just like the rest of us, and he probably deserves more sympathy than a Goliath usually warrants.