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“He Choked Himself Smoking”: Hiding Addiction From the World, Shaquille O’Neal Exposed by His Close Friends

Published 06/07/2023, 8:30 AM EDT

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Shaquille O’Neal, known for his intimidating presence on the basketball court, is still human with layered vulnerabilities and a life full of missteps. During a conversation with friends, the NBA superstar candidly discussed the ongoing events in the league, including the NBA Finals. However, his friends surprised him when a mention of his hookah addiction sprung up. Recounting a serious incident concerning what Shaq had once acknowledged as “asthma treatment,” things nearly took a turn for the worse once for the 4x NBA champion.

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Despite Shaquille O’Neal’s public commitment to maintaining his physical health and weight, it came as a surprise when his friend recently exposed his smoking habit. The revelation seemed to contradict O’Neal’s previous statements about taking care of his well-being.

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During the recent episode of ‘The Big Podcast With Shaq‘, co-host Nischelle Turner revealed that she finally deduced what the Sunshine Cafe that Shaq and Spice Adams fondly used to talk about was. However, O’Neal burst her bubble quickly by revealing it was a hookah bar where he used to go there and chill regularly. He never explicitly mentioned it because he wanted to keep it on the sly. But a little birdie revealed it all with a story that dated back from the holiday season last year.

A bemused Turner reminded the 15x NBA All-Star that they gifted him a hookah on Christmas of 2022. Despite O’Neal’s reluctance to admit his smoking habits in front of cameras, Turner continued, “Spice, do you remember when he choked himself smoking hookah on this podcast?”


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The revelation took O’Neal by surprise, as he continued to deny his past smoking behavior. O’Neal quickly switched the subject back to Turner’s assumption of the ‘Sunshine Cafe’ being a “state of mind“. This does come as a surprise considering how the 7’1 star has been focusing on his health lately. Shaq is a role model for many. But above all, he is a leading light for his children. On a rare occasion when he was caught smoking his hookah by his children, Shaq was forced to lie, “I remember when I first started indulging in hookah, my kids would go, ‘Daddy, what’s that?’

Big Diesel once lied to his children


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The 4x NBA champion had a straightforward answer. “‘That’s my asthma treatment. When you see Daddy on the asthma machine, don’t come to my office.’ They say, ‘Yes, sir.’” Apart from these revelations, in a recent interview, Shaquille O’Neal shared that he has been actively focusing on his physical health and well-being. This revelation came as a contrast to the surprise of his hookah-smoking habit.

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A few weeks ago, Shaquille O’Neal candidly discussed the challenges he faced due to his size, expressing his ongoing efforts to lose weight. He stated, “350 is the goal weight, but if I don’t see the eight pack, I’m going to take it even lower.” The Big Diesel shared his desired weight and acknowledged that he felt his face looked good when he was slimmer.


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Although some may question whether 350 pounds is too low for someone over seven feet tall, Shaq seemed determined to achieve his target weight.

WATCH THIS STORY: Shaquille O’Neal takes up DJ Diesel avatar as Israel Adesanya’s teammate faces loss.



Aaditya Negi

488 articles

Aaditya is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports and has been following the game for a number of years. He is an avid fan of the NBA and follows what’s happening in the league on a daily basis. Having worked as an intern in the sports domain, his passion for writing arose from his fondness for the intricacies of the game.

Edited By: Aayush Kapoor