Playing the game of basketball with the habit of excellence, Los Angeles Laker center Shaquille O'Neal (1972-) was born on this day in Newark, New Jersey. His given name, Shaquille Rashaun, means "little warrior" in Arabic.
"Maybe people like me because of my style of play or because I'm nice," he once said. "Maybe it's because I smile... I have nice teeth, and I'm very handsome."
The 7'-1", 300-plus pound basketball great is a celebration of lightning moves and soft touch shots. A two-time All-American at Louisiana State University, Shaq began his career in Orlando, then signed with the Lakers in 1996 and helped lead the team to the World Championship in 2000.
"I don't believe that I personally have been changed by the money. The bad thing is people assume you've changed because now you have money," explained O'Neal about his seven-year Lakers contract worth over $120 million. His stunning switch in 2004 to the Miami Heat generated even more excitement.
A rap artist and film star, a role model and advocate for youth charities, the charismatic Shaq was a part of the NBA Olympic Dream Teams.
"The whole world is looking for me to do something crazy. And I won't," he said. "No drinking and driving. No drugs here. I want to be the perfect big brother. Controversy sells, but I don't need to do that."
Make the excellence habit stick.