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Shaquille O’Neal Earns PhD, Inspires NBA Fans to Achieve

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COMMENTARY | Amidst all of the hoopla surrounding a busy sports weekend that included multiple NBA Playoff games, a Floyd Mayweather-Miguel Cotto fight, and the Kentucky Derby, Shaquille O'Neal was handling his business - serious business.

Doctoral business.

The 19-year NBA superstar received his PhD in Leadership and Education with a specialization in Human Resource Development from Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla. on Saturday, May 5, 2012. Shaq, who transcended NBA basketball and was larger than life during his playing days, has accomplished something most of his peers will never come close to doing.

It all started with a promise to his parents after he left LSU early to become the No. 1 overall pick by the Orlando Magic in 1992. At that time, he promised them he would finish school and earn his undergraduate degree, which he did during his playing career with the Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Boston Celtics.

He wasn't finished, though, earning his masters degree and now his doctorate. The man known as a jokester to fans is all business when it comes to his education. "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," O'Neal told ABC News.

In a world of superstars misbehaving and making headlines for all of the wrong reasons, Shaquille O'Neal is an inspiration to a generation of young people -- athletes and non-athletes alike. He's a special person, and should be commended for taking himself and his education so seriously.

I'd pay money to read his thesis, which is on the value of humor in leadership. As a self-proclaimed natural leader who loves to laugh, it would undoubtedly be an engaging read.

In Shaq-like fashion, he now wants to be called "Dr. O'Neal" by all adults. Why not? He's earned it.

If anyone thought he was done, they should think again. He now has his eyes set on earning his law degree. Soon, he will have more letters than the alphabet behind his name. The bottom line is that it's easy to write off a guy like O'Neal due to his jovial disposition when it comes to being a high achiever in the often pretentious world of academia. But Shaq is no clown, and he's one-hundred percent serious when he makes a promise regarding his education.

There's no greater example to young people than what he's doing as a leader. He deserves nothing but praise, even though some people will find ignorant reasons to criticize him. Shaq isn't perfect, but he's done a great service for his fans and the community by setting the bar high.

My message to Dr. O'Neal: Keep doing what you're doing as a leader - your actions are an inspiration to people everywhere. You alone deserve credit for it, and your message of failing to succumb to limitations is an inspiration.

Bravo, Dr. Shaq.

Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and has followed the entire career of Shaquille O'Neal. He has been published in southern California's Press-Enterprise and Examiner.com. Follow Michael on Twitter: @MikeJonesTweets.

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