How Shaq became a ‘father figure’ to LSU star Angel Reese
Two of the biggest stars in LSU basketball history have a strong bond, despite being on campus three decades apart.
Angel Reese, the standout player on LSU’s women’s basketball national championship team, told USA Today she considers Shaquille O’Neal to be a “father figure.”
Reese holds O’Neal in such esteem that she told the outlet she plans to ask him to partake in her Senior Day festivities that are usually reserved for family members.
“Hes super inspiring to me,” Reese said of the Basketball Hall of Famer. “Hes so genuine, hes been there for me through tough times. He just gets it, and theres not a more perfect person for me to be tight with. We have fun, and if I need anything, he would help me and he would do that even if I never played basketball again. He doesnt care about me as a player, he cares about me as a person.”
Reese, a junior at LSU, and O’Neal, who starred for the Tigers from 1989-92, hit it off last February when the Reese hosted O’Neal’s daughter, Me’Arah, for an official visit.
LSU assistant coach Bob Starkey, who coached O’Neal, had told the four-time NBA champion that Reese would be a strong fit for Authentic Brands Group, of which O’Neal is a shareholder.
3LSU women’s basketball star Angel Reese. Getty ImagesO’Neal then challenged Reese to produce a 20-20 game, and she tallied 26 points and 23 rebounds against Mississippi State on Feb. 23.“Theres really strong parallels in their personalities,” Starkey told USA Today. “They love people, they welcome the spotlight that comes with stardom, they both have a great love for this school and an enthusiasm for life.”
O’Neal has since become a central figure in her life, even advising Reese to leave social media while she was away from the team earlier this year.
3Shaquille O’Neal in 1990 with LSU. Getty Images3Angel Reese met President Joe Biden in May 2023. AP“One thing I always remember he said is, I have the world at my (fingertips). I could post right now on Instagram that I bought a million-dollar home and people are going to believe it, because thats how social media works,” Reese told the paper. “So when all of that was happening, he was coaching me up.”
The two reportedly talk all the time, with O’Neal reminding Reese of her off-the-court opportunities in this NIL space and after she leaves the school.
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O’Neal signed Reese to an NIL deal for Reebok in October.
Reese is eligible for the WNBA Draft but could stay one extra year if she chooses.
O’Neal previously called her “probably the greatest athlete to come out of LSU sports.”
“Shaq is a businessman, Reese told the paper. Hes very smart, hes got his doctorate, a lot of people dont know that hes actually ‘Dr. Shaq.’ Hes given me a business mindset. He talks about me owning a part of Reebok someday, he wants me to think about how the WNBA is going to be my summer job, so what else can I do (to make money) so I dont have to go play overseas if I dont want to.
“He reminds me that I need to be dominating in the sport, but I should have a lot of other stuff. Basketball is second to me. Hes helped me shape that mindset.
Starkey, having coached both players, has enjoyed watching their relationship blossom.
Reese is averaging 19.9 points and 12.1 rebounds per game for No. 9 LSU.
“Its incredibly important to me that I know Angel has Shaquille every step of the way,” Starkey told USA Today. “Shaquille is an incredibly loyal person. When Shaquille is in your camp, hes 10 toes in. Even when Angel was going through some difficulties earlier this season, he was right there for her. Where some companies might want to distance themselves from negative (attention), not Shaquille.
“Hes going to be there for her forever.”
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