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Author: Shaquille O’Neal’s father abused him as a child

Nov 10, 2011, 6:45 PM EDT

Former US basketball star Shaquille O'Ne Getty Images

Through all the entertaining anecdotes in the new Shaquille O’Neal book about his clashes with Kobe Bryant (and Pat Riley and LeBron James and Big Baby and…) there is another, darker episode.

There is Shaq’s upbringing, and how his father physically and mentally abused him. Like punching him in the face out of the blue abusive.

Phillip Harrison, Shaq’s military-member father, crossed the line from raising a tough child to abuse, according to Jackie MacMullan, who wrote the book with Shaq. And he crossed it a lot, she said.

Here is what MacMullan told Jason Whitlock on a podcast (transcribed by Eye on Basketball).

“It gets lost in the shuffle because people want to talk about Kobe, Pat Riley, and LeBron and all these other famous people, 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…

“We’re not talking about spanking. We’re talking about a belt. Beating him badly. Something that disturbed his mother greatly. Of course, Shaq’s mom and his dad aren’t together any more. I think that’s in part why. Sarge was a military guy, that’s how his father raised him, and that’s how he was going to raise his son. I don’t think he thinks there’s anything wrong with it still. Shaq understands it, his dad was ‘trying to help’ him. He believed his dad had the best intentions, so Shaq gives him a pass on it. As a reader, you can’t help but go, ‘Wow, this is tough, this is over the top.’….

“His father came home from work one night, Shaq is sitting there, he punches Shaq in the face. Shaq says, ‘Well, what’s that for?’ [Harrison] said, ‘We’re going to see this guy play basketball. We’re going to see him play tonight. He plays in the NBA. You’re messing around, you’re goofing around, you’re not serious about your game. This guy makes $15 million and he can’t play at all. And we’re going to go see him.’ Punches him again and takes him to go see Jon Koncak play basketball and says, ‘See, if you applied yourself, you could be in the NBA making $15 million.’ You can say that’s a good story, it makes my skin go pale, and I’m pretty pale to begin with.”

As a father, it makes me angry. I get how challenging it can be to motivate children, I get how hard it can be to get them to listen, be structured and follow rules. They’re kids, they want to push you at every turn. But there is a line that cannot be crossed. Not in a civil society.

It should be noted that Shaq says his father made him the man he became and Shaq loves his father dearly. Shaq praises his dad throughout the book.

Shaq also said in the book he would never treat his own kids the same way. Let’s hope that is true. Let’s hope he has ended the cycle of abuse. If so, he deserves a lot of credit.

  1. goforthanddie - Nov 10, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    Shaq says his father made him the man he became

    Is that the man who was too lazy to stay in shape, and incapable of accepting blame for anything?

    • iamdanabnormal - Nov 10, 2011 at 10:47 PM


    • david8726 - Nov 10, 2011 at 10:57 PM

      You’re a douche.

      How about you mention all the good things Shaq does, like doing tons of charitable events for kids and the community? Or promoting police work?

      I doubt you’re a perfect person. Don’t be so quick to stand in judgement of other people’s character flaws.

      • goforthanddie - Nov 10, 2011 at 11:15 PM

        Does speaking the truth bother you that much?
        He should still be playing, but he couldn’t bother to stay in shape, when staying in shape is basically what he was paid to do. And plenty of people do plenty of good things w/o throwing former teammates/bosses under various buses.

      • david8726 - Nov 10, 2011 at 11:59 PM

        Your version of the “truth” is very selective. You’re singling out all the negatives while ignoring the positives. That’s what bothers me.

        Was Shaq perfect? No, of course not. But the positives about Shaq far outweigh the negativies.

        Not being in shape and having a huge ego are small personal problems compared to the overwhelmingly good acts of helping kids and the community in every city he’s ever played in. Everything that happens in the NBA and in the media just doesn’t matter that much. That’s the entertainment industry.

        Touching lives and doing real work to help people is whats important in life, and Shaq has done a lot of that.

  2. charlutes - Nov 10, 2011 at 7:24 PM

    Disturbing, oddly refreshing, nostalgic…great story.

  3. Amadeus - Nov 10, 2011 at 8:08 PM

    BFD…anything to sell a book. This is the best MacMullen can come up with? Pathetic.

  4. totallydisgusted - Nov 10, 2011 at 9:16 PM

    punching in the face is crazy. the belt ain’t so bad. the belt has always been a reliable tool of discipline when applied at the right time and circumstances. you just can’t go overboard with it. I bet Shaq is more upset about getting punched the getting the belt

  5. vikesfansteve - Nov 10, 2011 at 9:39 PM

    Total B.S.

    • florida727 - Nov 11, 2011 at 9:04 AM

      I agree with “vikesfansteve”. Nothing but a ploy to sell books. Just lost all respect for JackieMac. The guy was like 7 foot and 280 in freaking high school. He’d have kicked his old man’s @$$ even then. My dad beat the crap out of me when a kid in the neighborhood got hit in the head with a baseball bat and my dad thought I did it. I didn’t go running to Child Protective Services.

      Definitely won’t be running to Barnes & Noble any time soon for this piece of literary trash.

  6. madisonave99 - Nov 11, 2011 at 12:26 AM

    Wow, had no idea that Shaq had to endure that, no child ever should have to deal with that. when Shaq first came to prominence in the NBA, I always wondered why his biological dad was such a distant figure in his life–now I see why

  7. The Prophet - Nov 11, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    The only person who can call this abuse is Shaq. If he was fine how his father disciplined than who is anybody else to judge how a parent deals with the child. Getting punched in the face by your Dad is not that big of a deal depending on how old the child is. Ten years old is one thing, but this article doesn’t mention age which leads me to believe this was won Shaq was teenaged. And just because Shaq isn’t doing the same thing to his kids doesn’t mean what was done to him was wrong. I do a lot of things different with my kids and its not because I feel i was wronged by my parents. It’s just a choice and a preference of methods or styles of parenting. Get off your high horse jackie.

    • amazonfan0007 - Nov 13, 2011 at 12:07 AM

      Are you serious? When is it okay to be punched in the face by a parent? When it comes to physical abuse, it’s not a question of different parenting methods, it’s a question of right and wrong.

      There is NO rage where it’s not that big of a deal to be punched in the face by your Dad, and if you believe that, you shouldn’t be allowed to be a parent!

  8. 1historian - Nov 12, 2011 at 7:51 AM

    When my dad was 84 he looked at me and said “I know that the reason that you have no confidence in yourself as a man is because I beat it out of you when you were a boy.”

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