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Does Shaq's fame make his kids more vulnerable to bullying, or should they be better protected?

Shaunie Henderson’s memoir, Undefeated, is about her relationships with her parents, her ex-husband, Shaquille O’Neal, their kids, and her current husband. But one of the deepest segments of the book was not written by her. Her eldest daughter, Amirah O’Neal, contributed to a part of the book where she revealed a very vulnerable time in her life.

Shaq’s five kids usually navigate the negative attention that comes their way because of the O’Neal name very well. So Shaq and Shaunie would like to believe. But in this chapter, Shaunie disclosed that Mimi had her and the whole world fooled.

Amirah was a walk-on at LSU in 2020 when the pandemic shut down regular classes. She was shut in at her dorm and journaling her feelings, an excerpt of which she revealed through her mother’s book. She wrote about her first tournament in Las Vegas, where she didn’t play in either of the two games. Logically, it was understandable. Amirah knew she had to improve and earn her playing time, and she wasn’t going to be thrown into the game just like that. But her absence on the court spurred gossip.

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She heard remarks like, “Oh, she’s probably not that good.” When SEC rules prevented her from playing in the tournament, the negativity worsened and started getting to her. “I was still confused on why, game after game, I had to deal with what people said about me. It was always negativity,” Mimi wrote.

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She struggled to fit in at LSU and felt like she was there only because of her dad, Shaq, who went to the NBA draft from there in 1992 and returned to complete his bachelor’s and MBA. Shaunie would later discover she was singled out at practices. She didn’t have study groups or parties because she was frozen out by her peers.

Mimi kept this hidden from her family when Shaunie visited her and Shareef at LSU. Shaunie figured something was wrong only when she came home at the end of the season.

Amirah O’Neal turned her struggle into an outlet

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Shaunie had to pry Mimi to open up before she found out about her isolation. Amirah didn’t want to go back to playing basketball if she’d returned to LSU. Shaunie initially tried to convince her that she’d get more playtime in her sophomore year. But with the lack of team workouts, it seemed unlikely. Amirah would transfer to Texas Southern University in 2021, closer to her mother in Houston, and major in business.

Shaunie was worried about her but was also proud of how Mimi built something meaningful out of her situation. Amirah spearheaded ‘Athlete Escape,’ a mental health program on her Instagram. It meant for student-athletes to have a safe space for revealing their struggles and not bottle it the way Mimi did from her family.

Shaq and Shaunie will always look out for their kids. Shaq is especially conscious of what his kids go through, and that’s why he’s been vocal about his encouragement for Bronny James. Regardless, Shaunie is proud of the strength Amirah showed in a difficult time.

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Stay tuned for more such updates, and to follow what Shaq’s ex-agent, Leonard Armato, has to say about the infamous Shaq-Kobe feud, Caitlin Clark’s Olympic snub, and more, watch this video.