Shaquille O'Neal's Son Shareef Signs Six-Figure Contract with NBA G League Ignite

The 22-year-old son of NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal will play for the developmental team in Nevada next season

G League Prospect, Shareef O'Neal poses for a portrait during the 2022 G League Elite Camp
Shareef O'Neal. Photo: Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images

Shareef O'Neal, the 22-year-old son of basketball royalty Shaquille O'Neal, is one step closer to his dream of playing in the NBA.

O'Neal signed a six-figure contract to play for the Nevada-based G League Ignite next season, The Athletic reported Monday. O'Neal confirmed the signing on his own social media, writing "VEGAS LETS DO IT !! Thank you Ignite," on Twitter.

The developmental Ignite team is a productive next step for O'Neal, who struggled to keep up with top draft picks during his summer league debut with the Los Angeles Lakers.

According to The Athletic, multiple teams around the league were "intrigued" with O'Neal's "athleticism and pedigree throughout" the pre-draft and summer league schedule last month. In his debut, O'Neal averaged 4.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 10.9 minutes per game.

Shareef O'Neal #45 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands on the court during a break in a game against the Phoenix Suns during the 2022 NBA Summer League
Shareef O'Neal. Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Based in Henderson, Nevada, O'Neal's new team is a "first-of-its-kind team dedicated to developing top young prospects in preparation for the NBA Draft," per their official website.

The program offers NBA hopefuls a program that "focuses on high-level competition and accelerated on-court development for players who are beginning their professional careers." Additionally, Ignite will offer athletes useful training in areas such as financial literacy and life skills.

O'Neal's future Ignite teammate, American-Ukrainian player Pooh Jeter, welcomed the team's newest player on Twitter. "Yes Sirrr! Welcome to the family champ," Jeter wrote. "Let's do it," O'Neal replied in a tweet.

In June, the 22-year-old athlete told ESPN his father didn't want him to enter the NBA draft. "He wanted me to stay in school," Shareef said during a workout with the Lakers, prior to summer league. "He knows I'm working out with teams. But I'm not going to lie, we ain't talked about this. I'm kind of just going through it."

"I know he probably doesn't want me saying this, but sorry. We're both grown, we'll get past it," Shareef told ESPN, adding that he wanted to "better himself through" pre-draft workouts with teams in the league.

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Prior to signing with the team, Shareef played power forward for the LSU Tigers, the same team his father played for before the Orlando Magic selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. However, the aspiring NBA player's journey to the league hasn't been as seamless as his father's was years ago.

According to ESPN, Shareef averaged just 2.9 points and 2.1 rebounds during the 2021-22 season at LSU. Comparatively, Shaquille averaged 21.6 points and 13.5 rebounds for the Tigers during his time there.

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"I went through some things that he didn't go through," Shareef noted. "He was the No. 1 pick in the draft," Shareef explained. "I kind of had to grind to get here. I had to grind a lot. I had to go through some stuff these past four years — foot injuries, heart surgeries," he revealed.

Ankle and foot injuries have plagued Shareef, whose health has been a major setback to his performance. As a freshman at UCLA, Shareef underwent open-heart surgery to treat an ailment in 2019. "He didn't do any pre-draft workouts; he just got straight on the [Orlando Magic], so it's a different grind," Shareef said of his father's journey to the NBA.

Shareef is embracing the "different grind" he's experienced compared to his father, telling ESPN, "I don't really look to be in his shadow."

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