Are Shaquille O’Neal and Warriors Star Gary Payton II Related? Exploring Lakers Legend’s Ties to His “Nephew”

Published 04/11/2024, 8:34 AM EDT

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Over the years, the Big Man of the league, Shaquille O’Neal, has formed numerous friendships. And he remains closely connected to most of them. However, it’s only a few with whom he shares great memories, the Glove being one of them. It was the Big Aristotle who called Payton to join the Lakers so that he could win a championship title. While the LA Lakers weren’t the right place, the duo made it happen with the Miami Heat. Both legends were part of the Miami Heat team in 2006, and otherworldly skills weren’t the only things that they shared. The two had the same attitude, and the one on the receiving end was Heat Head Coach Pat Riley.

Both Shaq and Gary Payton Sr. refused to follow Riley’s orders, forging a close friendship between themselves. And that extended to their families too; Shaquille O’Neal’s ex-wife, Shaunie Henderson, shares a great relationship with Payton’s ex-wife, Monique James, and her kids. The two have known each other since the Basketball Wives reality series. James and Payton Sr. have three children together: Gary Payton Jr., Raquel, and Julian Payton, and even though both families are not related by blood, Shaunie has always considered James’ kids as her nephews. So, Payton II is not related to O’Neal, but they are indeed quite close.

But Payton Jr.’s journey wasn’t like that of his Hall of Famer dad; he had to work hard enough to reach where he stands now, making his parents and the O’Neals proud. When the 31-year-old landed an opportunity to play for the Golden State Warriors, Shaunie quickly shared a congratulatory message to praise him. Sharing the trade news on her Instagram, Henderson wrote, “This trade made my whole day! Love you, Nephew @garydwayne.”


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After their split with basketball player husbands, both the ladies maintained their bonds. And so have their kids. Payton Jr. shares a good friendship with the O’Neal kids too.

Gary Payton II and his bond with Shaquille O’Neal and his family


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O’Neal kids, Shareef, and Shaqir once had the chance to team up with Payton II, where the trio played on the same team in the Drew League. Often called The Young Glove, the NBA champ was awarded first-team All-Pac-12, as well as Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. As Shaunie mentioned, the Warriors deal was a big opportunity for him, winning his first NBA championship title with the franchise in 2022. 

READ MORE: 8 Years After Buying Muhammad Ali’s Rights, Shaquille O’Neal Gets His Flowers From NBA Legend Reggie Miller in 3 Words


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During his 16 appearances in the last season, he averaged 5.4 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals. Previously, he played in the G-League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Wisconsin Herd, and South Bay Lakers. “I really didn’t have any expectations for myself just because I started at a late age. I started late and my chances to make it were very slim. So, I wasn’t looking at four years, or five years for a contract. I was just trying to get on the roster. That’s it. Let me get a couple of minutes here and there and let me just show you what I’m about,” Payton said about his opportunity to play in the NBA in a conversation with NBC Sports.


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The champ once also shared the stage with O’Neal. The Los Angeles Lakers legend donning his DJ Diesel hat performed at the Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco in 2023. Payton II also joined him behind the DJ deck. Along with Warriors fans, about 75,000 people turned up for the event. Other star artists who performed at the event were The 1975, Tobe Nwigwe, Megan Thee Stallion, J.I.D., AESPA, Janelle Monáe, and more. Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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Written by:

Pritha Debroy


One take at a time

Pritha is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. After reporting on the luxurious lifestyle of celebrities for a year, she used that experience to cover the glamor side of the basketball world. She has expertly covered Larsa Pippen and Marcus Jordan's complicated love story and the lavish vacations of NBA superstars, among other off-court scoops.
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Edited by:

Sanchari Bhaduri