Shaquille O'Neal can now add doctor to his resume. The four-time NBA champion received his doctoral degree in Education from Barry University on Saturday, May 5 morning. He was one of the 1,100 students presented with their degree at multiple commencement ceremonies at the James L. Knight Center in downtown Miami, Florida.
Wearing a custom-made, bright red XXXL robe for the special day, the 7-foot-1, 325-pound former athlete knelled down before Dr. David M. Kopp so that the chairman of the university's Organizational Learning and Leadership program could drap a light blue hood around his neck. To the amusement of the crowd, he then lifted Kopp into the air.
Before walking off the stage, Shaq gave a big hug to Sister Linda Bevilacqua, the president of the private Catholic school. It was reported that the 40-year-old, who achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.813 and completed 54 credit hours, also posed for photographs before high-fiving a row of graduates on the way back to his seat.
In a university release, the retired NBA star said, "This is for my mother, who always stressed the importance of education. I am proud to have achieved a doctoral degree and wish to thank my professors and Barry University for helping make this dream a reality. I'm smart enough to know that, even at my tender age, my pursuit of education is never finished."
Shaq left Louisiana State University early to pursue a career in the NBA, but went back to earn a bachelor of science in general studies in 2000. The athlete, who has played for Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers among others, didn't stop there. He got his MBA through an online program from the University of Phoenix in 2005.
Asked why he chose to go back into education, he told ABC News, "One, I promised my parents I would[follow my passion for education]. Two, I wanted to continue my education and three, I wanted to challenge myself." He added, "The hardest part was getting back into high school mode. You ever have that high school teacher that says, you've got to read six chapters over the weekend?"