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Shaquille O’Neal reveals how he ‘messed up’ his past relationships

The former NBA star says he didn't always bring his A-game to his relationships in the past.
Shaquille O'Neal looks to his right over his shoulder in a basketball arena. He's wearing a purple plaid suit and coordinating tie.
Shaquille O'Neal looks on prior to a game between the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat on May 21, 2023 in Miami, Florida. Megan Briggs / Getty Images

Shaquille O’Neal might be a god among basketball players, but when it comes to relationships, he admits that he is a mere mortal guilty of making mistakes.

On June 24, the former professional basketball player and sports analyst appeared on the podcast “Mo Talk Radio,” which is hosted by the singer Monica — legally known as Monica Denise Arnold. During the sit-down conversation, the athlete spoke frankly when he was asked about “the perfect woman” and what she might look like to him.

“I had two perfect women, and I messed it up,” the former center said. “My first one was my baby mother, Arnetta (Yardbourgh), and then I met Shaunie (Nelson). Shaunie was also a perfect woman, and I messed it up.”

“We were young and always just doing dumb stuff. But the good thing about our relationship is (that) they forgave me, and we have a good relationship now,” he went on to add. “But when you ask me about the perfect woman, I had two perfect women, and I messed it up just by, you know, being dumb.”

O’Neal is father to six children.

He and Yardbourgh share a daughter named Taahirah O’Neal, who was born in 1996.

O’Neal has four children from his previous relationship with Shaunie Henderson, whom he was to from 2002 to 2011. Their children are 23-year-old Shareef, who is also a basketball player, 21-year-old Amirah, 20-year-old Shaqir, and 17-year-old Me’arah. He also adopted Henderson’s son, 26-year-old Myles, from a previous relationship.

Soon after he shared his thoughts, Monica asked O’Neal if he felt that his success had afforded him access to activities that led to the downfall of his relationships.

“I come from a place where you’re not allowed to make excuses,” he admitted. “I have no excuses. Probably just, you know, when you come from a place where you don’t have any access, and then you get a lot of access, sometimes you just, you do what you want to do rather than just doing what was right.”

According to O’Neal, the hindsight of his experience has taught him lessons he’s eager to pass on to his sons.

“First thing you have to be is honest, honest with yourself and honest with your partner. I tell my sons all the time, a man has three jobs when it comes to a woman: protect, provide and love.”

“Some men can only offer two, for whatever reason, but I’m a teach you how to offer all three,” he added. “And that’s what I try to do, and even though I don’t have a relationship with the women I let get away, I will always PPL: protect, provide, and love. Whatever they need, they get it from me.”

It’s not the first time O’Neal has spoken out about having regrets about his marriage. In a 2022 interview with People, the basketball star described the end of his marriage caused him to lose “the privilege of having joy.”

“I was a d---head,” he told People at the time. “You don’t know how good you got something till it’s gone.”

He went on to share that if he were to step before the altar again one day, he’d make for a responsible husband.

“If it happens again, my next wife will be like, ‘He’s wonderful! He’s the best ever!’ Because I’ve learned from my mistakes.”