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Shaquille O'Neal and his father Philip Arthur Harrison | Source: Getty Images
Shaquille O'Neal and his father Philip Arthur Harrison | Source: Getty Images

Phillip Arthur Harrison Became Shaquille O'Neal's Father Figure during His Childhood

Sep 07, 2023
12:15 P.M.

Phillip Arthur Harrison, basketball star Shaquille O'Neal's late stepfather, played a pivotal role in shaping his career and imparting invaluable lessons of tough love.

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Regarding tough love, former National Basketball Association (NBA) star Shaquille O'Neal knows it well. He spent his formative years under the strict guidance of his stepfather, Phillip Arthur Harrison.

The NBA icon has openly shared his rebellious past and how his late stepfather taught him important life lessons and unexpectedly nurtured his deep love for basketball, the sport he holds close to his heart.

Philip Harrison congratulates Shaquille O'Neal after a game on April 26, 2001, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

Philip Harrison congratulates Shaquille O'Neal after a game on April 26, 2001, in Los Angeles, California. | Source: Getty Images

How Phillip Harrison Molded Shaquille O'Neal's Life

Phillip was a battle-hardened military man whom Shaquille O'Neal's mother, Lucille O'Neal, met in Newark, New Jersey. He was a dedicated army sergeant stationed at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio. His approach to raising young Shaquille was reminiscent of his military upbringing.

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Under his guidance, he taught Shaquille crucial life skills, including how to tie his shoes, maintain proper dental hygiene, and master pivot art. But Phillip's mentorship went beyond the practical.

He imparted invaluable wisdom to his stepson, teaching him the difference between family and love and helping him become a better man. Additionally, Phillip assumed a protective role and ensured his stepson never talked about his biological father, who had abandoned him as a child.

Philip Arthur Harrison attends Game 4 of the NBA Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Jersey Nets in 2002. | Source: Getty Images

Philip Arthur Harrison attends Game 4 of the NBA Finals with the Los Angeles Lakers and the New Jersey Nets in 2002. | Source: Getty Images

The NBA Star's Reflection on Phillip's Tough Parenting

In a 2020 interview, Shaquille reflected on his relationship with Phillip, acknowledging that his stepfather used tough disciplinary methods when he was younger, as he was a troublesome juvenile delinquent. He recalled:

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"My father knew I was stubborn and hard-headed, that's why he knew that all the tactics he used on me would definitely work."

Phillip's strict parenting style did have a positive impact on Shaquille. He felt it steered him toward a more promising future. However, expressing emotions was not a part of his stepfather's lessons, which was challenging for the NBA superstar. When Phillip passed away on September 10, 2013, the retired athlete allowed himself to cry and express his sadness.

This was because he hadn't been able to thank his father enough before his death. However, before his passing, Phillip entrusted the NBA superstar with caring for his family, and Shaquille honored this last request.

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Phillip's Stepson Continues to Fulfill His Family Responsibilities

Phillip's stepson continues to support not only his immediate family but also the families of his siblings and his mother's clan. He takes care of college expenses and addresses the various needs of his younger relatives.

Although Phillip is no longer with the family, his famous stepson continues to honor his memory. In 2017, Shaquille celebrated his stepfather by thanking him for raising and shaping him into a dominant player in basketball history.

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Phillip was also the one who introduced him to basketball. In June 2023, on Father's Day, the former athlete shared a photo of them exchanging hand gestures. Shaquille thanked Phillip for influencing his life and making him who he is today.

Similar to Shaquille's strong bond with his stepfather, other notable celebrities share close relationships with their stepparents. Kate Hudson considers Kurt Russell, her mom Goldie Hawn's partner, her father figure, while Jason Momoa is a supportive stepfather to Lisa Bonet's daughter, Zoë Kravitz.

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