Throughout his 16-year career, you might think you’ve heard everything about new Suns center Jermaine O’Neal. But I think we can surprise you. Here are some interesting facts out O’Neal you may not know:
1. Regret: The biggest regret in his career was not playing in the Olympics. Although he played in the World Championships in 2002, a knee injury kept him out of the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
2. Favorite Teammate: Reggie Miller is the teammate that had the greatest effect on his career. O’Neal was flattered by Miller’s interest in and willingness to work with him after being acquired following the Pacers’ run to the Finals. The 6-11 O’Neal even chose to put his locker next to Miller to benefit from his encouragement and mentoring.
3. College: If O’Neal went to college, he would have probably attended Kentucky. He wouldn’t rule out staying at home to play for South Carolina, but O’Neal said that he really clicked with then-head coach Rick Pitino. In fact, Pitino developed such a close relationship with O’Neal’s family that O’Neal believes that there is no other recruit Pitino regrets more on not landing than the new Suns center.
4. Health Tip Advisor: The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, who came into the league the same year as O’Neal, helped convince O’Neal to receive the Regenokine procedure on his knees. Although O’Neal was hesitant because it wasn’t FDA approved at the time, Bryant’s performance this past year helped persuade him to undergo the procedure.
5. Uniform Meaning: O’Neal, who comes from a pretty religious family, will wear the No. 20 this season because the number coincides with a verse from the Bible that resonated with him. The verse that he referred to talks about “redemption.”