Shareef O’Neal says he was a “star” while training at the Lakers.

Shareef O’Neal has seen the Lakers at their absolute best. Born but before the first of three consecutive Lakers titles in the early 2000s. He remembers attending games and championships as a child and rejoicing in his father’s Shaqi No. 34 shirt.

These memories made him barely noticeable and speechless before Tuesday’s preparation training. But it came as a bitter moment when he returned to Los Angeles, wearing purple and gold, but without his father’s guidance throughout the process.

“I stepped in today and was kind of shocked,” Shareef said. “Like, I was born into this team. My father and Kobe won the championship at my birth, and now I’m putting Lakers in the lineup. It was crazy. I was speechless, sort of.

“It’s a big blessing to the team I grew up watching. My dad won the championship with that team, and now that I’m working with the Lakers, it’s amazing. It’s a dream come true.”

However, it was not a completely solemn return home for Shareef. He also revealed that he and his father disagreed on the path he should take this spring. Shaq wanted him to return to LSU to continue his education with Shareef, who chose to make his NBA dream come true. The result has left Shareef navigating in front of the water without his father next door.

“I and I have some thoughts on this process,” Shareef said. “He wanted me to stay in school. I wanted to get better and get through it. He knows I’m training for the teams, but I’m not lying, we haven’t talked about it. I’m just going through it. He didn’t do any preparation training. He escaped “It’s right on the team. It’s a different grind. But he didn’t want me to do it. I know he probably doesn’t want me to say that, but it’s nothing, we’re both adults. We’ll get over it.”

It was with these mixed emotions that Shareef participated in his latest training, on the one hand an inch away from his lifelong dream and on the other hand, without the synonym of the Lakers franchise.

Shareef’s college career was full of ups and downs, mostly due to injuries. Frustration was expected to arise as he notified the draft without first signing the agent. The invitation to the G League elite camp opened many doors, as Shareef said, and paved the way for training with the teams. As his dream began to come true before him, Shareef took the opportunity to leave the draft, leaving LSU – and then his father – behind.

“It made it a little scary for me,” Shareef said as he went through the preparation process without his father. “She has a great education and I feel like I didn’t get a chance in college. I didn’t feel like I did in college.

“When the teams started calling me to train, I was like a man, if I want to do that, it’s in front of me. Just go. So I kept working. He didn’t like the idea at all, “added Shareef. “It’s bullshit that he didn’t like the idea, but I’m an adult man. I’m 22 years old, I can make my own decisions. It was right in front of my face, I won’t back down. I’ll take it when I see it. Just that’s how I’m built.

“I take care of everything the same way. I did my heart surgery the same way. But it was right in front of me. I had to go after it. If he likes it or not, it doesn’t really stop me from doing what I want to do. Like I said, I want to play basketball, I want it. here. “

As hard as the waters between Shareef and Shaq had been in recent weeks and months, he was able to recall his franchise with a smile.

“When I came to the Lakers games, I was always wearing a yellow 34 shirt,” he said. “I was my father’s biggest fan when I was little. I used to play every game. Seeing him and Kobe do it, seeing him win championships, I went to parades and more. I’ve been around this franchise for a long time.

Being the son of an NBA player comes with natural pressure and expectations, not to mention the gray and legend of celebrities. However, this pressure has not affected Shareef over the years. In fact, he doesn’t even like to use that word.

“One thing about me is that I don’t keep the word emphasis in my vocabulary,” Shareef said. “The emphasis is on diamonds. I feel like it’s a completely different story for me and him now. I went through things he didn’t go through. He was the first choice in the draft and I had to work hard to get here. I had to grind a lot. I have to go through some things for a year – foot injuries, heart surgery – and I don’t seem to be in his shadow, I know it’s always there, a comparison.

“Every child is compared to their father doing the same thing as them. It’s there. It doesn’t bother me. I really don’t believe in the pressure. I feel like I’m playing a game in my own style. He and I are different players. He was back down, back on the ground, drowned, 7’1 “, 300 pounds. I’m 6’10”, 215 (pounds). I’m not playing this replay. Too big now bring the ball down and hit threes. I think he only had one trio in his entire career. There is no disrespect, but you must be able to shoot now. I feel like I’m playing a completely different game as an adult. “

It’s true that Shareef’s game is almost unlike his father’s. Nor is his journey, which has included many starts and stops since high school. Probably no fear was greater than the heart disease he was diagnosed with at UCLA before the 2018 freshman season and for which he underwent surgery.

Photo by Brian Rothmuller / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After wearing a red medical shirt, Shareef returned to the field next season under a new head coach and played only 13 games. He announced in February 2020 that he would move to LSU, but his fate was not much different, as he played only 24 games in Baton Rouge in two seasons due to a leg injury.

“I feel like I haven’t had a chance to show what I did in high school,” Shareef said. “I don’t really consider high school basketball to be my full potential, but I feel like I’ve never done it because I’ve played with a bad heart my whole life. I just got it fixed a few years ago and will return to it.

“I work every day. One day all this potential will come out. It still needs to get faster, stronger. It still needs to improve everything. People will soon see it. I’m ready to play basketball. I work, I’m definitely trying to reach my goals and dreams. But I think that people haven’t seen this full Shareef yet, and I’ll definitely get to that.

Maybe the Lakers are the team that can unleash its potential. It seems almost certain that Shareefit will not be drafted on Thursday. He is not listed among Sam Vecenie’s top 100 potential clients The Athletic nor is he listed as one of DraftExpress’s top 100 potential customers.

But that doesn’t change how close he is to achieving his dream, or the emotions he experienced returning home on Tuesday, with or without his father.

“I told my family I had a Lakers workout and they’re all excited,” Shareef said. “My grandmother (was) very excited because they never thought I was in this job. I always thought my father was in Lakers, but now I have the opportunity to wear those colors. That’s awesome. ”

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