Shaquille O’Neal is one of the greatest big men the NBA has ever seen. Some might even say that he was the most physically dominant player in league history. Throughout his decorated career, the 7-foot-1 mammoth also amassed quite a fortune in earnings. According to Spotrac, this amounts to a whopping $286 million in the span of 19 years. Below we break down all the contracts O’Neal signed throughout his career.
O’Neal was the biggest prospect coming out of college and was the unquestioned first overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft. The Orlando Magic considered him to be their cornerstone superstar of the future, and as such, they signed O’Neal to a huge deal on the get-go. This amounted to a $17.4 million deal for four years, which at that time, was huge for a rookie that had not played a single minute of NBA basketball.
O’Neal quickly repaid Orlando’s investment, taking the team to the Finals in just his third year with the squad. O’Neal also led the league in scoring that season, and also memorably toppled Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the playoffs en route to a trip to the NBA Finals against the Houston Rockets.
Los Angeles Lakers
Once O’Neal’s four-year deal was up, he became the hottest prospect in the free-agent class of 1996. It was the Los Angeles Lakers that ultimately won the Shaq lottery, as they signed the All-Star big man to a $120 million, seven-year deal. This was also the same summer that L.A. drafted the late, great Kobe Bryant (via the Charlotte Hornets), and this marked the beginning of the Shaq-Kobe era in Hollywood.
By 2003, Shaquille O’Neal’s first deal with the Lakers expired, and he re-signed with the squad to the tune of $88.5 million for the next three years.
The Lakers won three straight titles with O’Neal at the helm, but as with all good things, this marriage had to end. This came in the summer of 2004, with reports stating that Shaq and Kobe’s relationship had become unsalvageable. This prompted L.A. to trade away O’Neal to the Miami Heat.
In eight amazing years with the Lakers, Shaq put up 27.0 points (on 57.5 percent shooting), 11.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.5 blocks. He is widely considered as one of the best players to have ever dawned the Purple & Gold.
By the time O’Neal arrived in Miami, he still had two years on his deal from the Lakers. After his first season with Miami, O’Neal opted to exercise the early termination clause of his contract, and as a result, this allowed him to earn $20 million per season over the next two years.
Playing alongside a young Dwyane Wade, Shaq won his fourth and final championship with the Heat in 2006. He spent another season and a half with the Heat following their title win prior to Shaq being traded to the Phoenix Suns in February of 2008.
By the time O’Neal arrived in Phoenix he was already 35. In his second season, however, he was voted to the All-Star squad to make his 15th and final All-Star appearance in his career. He averaged 17.8 points (on 60.9 percent shooting), 8.4 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.4 blocks at age 36.
O’Neal didn’t do much to help a struggling Suns side, though. The team got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs in 2008, and they missed the postseason completely the following year. Nonetheless, he still earned $41 million in his two years in Phoenix.
In June of 2009, the Suns traded Shaq to the Cavs, where he would join a 25-year-old LeBron James. Shaq averaged 12.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.2 blocks that year, and it was clear that he had already entered the twilight of his career. This was no longer the Shaq that dominated the hard court on a nightly basis. Still, playing with LeBron was quite a treat for him.
O’Neal pocketed another $20 million in his single season in Cleveland, as he parted ways with the team as a free agent at the end of the 2009-10 season. Notably, that was also the same time LeBron infamously took his talents to South Beach.
Shaq still had a little bit left in the tank, and the Celtics came calling. O’Neal signed a two-year deal with the C’s amounting to $2.75 million. Given all that he had earned throughout his career, this deal was no longer about the money, and more about Shaq’s desire to play on for at least another year. True enough, he would call it a career after just one year in Boston, opting to forgo the final year of his deal.
O’Neal officially retired on June 1, 2011, declining the player option on the final year of his deal. Five years later, Shaq was enshrined to the Hall of Fame as part of the 2016 class.