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Shaq's a Real Student of Game

Lakers: O'Neal needs to complete two courses in the fall to finally earn his degree from LSU.


NEW ORLEANS — Shaquille O'Neal left Louisiana State after his junior season, about 35 units short of graduating. More than eight years later, he is two months from earning his General Studies degree.

If he completes two correspondence courses during the fall semester--in agriculture and geography--he will graduate Dec. 15, the Diesel-dictorian of the Class of 2000.

When he declared for the NBA draft in 1992, O'Neal promised his mother, Lucille, that he would graduate. A sprinkling of schoolwork followed until this summer, when he said he attended classes on LSU's Lafayette and Baton Rouge campuses.

"This summer he asked me to put the so-called extracurricular activities on hold so he could focus on his education," said O'Neal's agent, Leonard Armato.

O'Neal studies at home, on the airplane, in his hotel room. He mails or e-mails his homework to his professors. Before the Lakers' shoot-around Wednesday morning, he said that the effort has been long and difficult, and assumes it will be doubly so when the season begins.

But he is pleased that it is nearly done and that his promise to Lucille is nearly delivered.

"It's been hard," O'Neal said. "I've been out of school for a long time. But it's close. I did it because I had to. I told my mother I would."

He also has identified a post-NBA career, which should be extended by four years and almost $120 million any day now.

"I can't say," he said, grinning. "But think, 'enforcement.' "

As in law enforcement.

All the borderline criminality he absorbs in the lane? Not payable in free throws on the outside. That's five-to-10.

Shaquille O'Neal: NBA MVP, movie star, rapper--G-man?

Imagine Shaq at the front door with a badge, a gun, a battering ram and a smile.

A prerequisite for his second career is a college degree. That, too, is coming.


New Orleans--didn't Nick Nolte discover Shaq here?--is a two-hour drive from Baton Rouge, so the Shaq contingent was large and visible Wednesday night.

He provided 150 tickets to friends and family, had his picture on the front page of the morning paper and signed autographs wherever he went.

He was an La. guy long before he was an L.A. guy.

"It's not really home," said O'Neal, who attended high school in San Antonio. "But it gives me some college flashbacks."


Introduced Wednesday to Marc Stein, NBA writer for the Dallas Morning News who according to the introduction left the Laker beat for "the big money in Dallas," Phil Jackson raised his eyebrows and said, "Big money? Is Mark Cuban paying the writers down there too?"


Horace Grant has a brother in the NBA again.

After a year out of the game, Horace's twin, Harvey, is back with Washington. The Lakers play the Wizards tonight in Memphis.

"It's nice to see him content," Horace said. "I didn't want him to leave basketball and miss it. And he was missing it, very much so."

Horace laughed and added, "Now he can stop calling me and asking me for money."

Harvey signed a one-year contract with Washington, where his boss will be Horace's former teammate, Michael Jordan.

"I think he'll last another year or two," Horace said.


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