Shaquille O’Neil: His Biggest Fear (And How It Still Haunts Him Today)

Shaq2Shaq has pretty much done it all: from being an Olympian to NBA all-star champion, to father and even a commercial pitch-man for everything. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could tease the 7’1″ Shaquille O’Neal, but that’s exactly what happened when Shaq was growing up with a stutter. Kids called him Sasquatch — what else to call a large super husky kid who had the name Shaquille, a name no one had heard before? But even with Shaq’s height, deep voice and the number of people that feared him on the basketball court, Shaq feared one thing.

Shaq was terrified of his stutter.

He would sit in class, knowing that if the teacher called on him he’d never be able to get the words out. “I’d rather take the zero” he jokes.

“I’d be like, ‘Please don’t call on me, please don’t call on me.’ I know the teacher is going to call on me and I’m going to stutter and everyone is going to laugh at me.'”

There are four factors most likely to contribute to the development of stuttering: genetics (approximately 60% of those who stutter have a family member who does also); child development (children with other speech and language problems or developmental delays are more likely to stutter); neurophysiology (recent neurological research has shown that people who stutter process speech and language slightly differently than those who do not stutter); and family dynamics (high expectations and fast-paced lifestyles can contribute to stuttering).

Here’s 3 Steps to Get Your Stuttering Under Control:
1. Mentally and physically relax
Tell yourself that you really are going to do fine. When you are worried that you are going to stutter, you make it likelier that you will. Relax both your body and your mind. Take a quick assessment of your body: Is your back stiff? Are your hands clenched? Relax…it helps.

(Photo credit: Instagram)

2. Use A Mirror
Stand in front of the mirror and just start talking about anything — how your day went, what you’re feeling like, what you’re planning on eating later on — and watch your stutter disappear. Visualize yourself speaking in a clear, stutter free tone.

3. When you stutter, smile. Work through stuttering by letting out great smile. Even if it’s not a smile do something that reminds you that “yes, you’ve got this” and you can make it through.

“I still stutter to this day, but now I’m more cool with it now,” admits Shaq. Watching him grin as he explains what he does to disarm listeners when…