By Brie Strickland
I still remember the day the Miami Heat signed Shaquille O’Neal. It was one of the greatest days because my parents jumped at the opportunity to get season tickets. Fast forward eight years and I’m get a late afternoon phone call from a friend asking if I’d like to go to lecture with Dr. O’Neal. Yes you read that right- the NBA powerhouse also has a PhD from Barry University in Miami.
As I settled in my seat in the intimate O’Donnell Auditorium on SMU’s campus, the crowd suddenly went silent. Ducking to fit through the doorway was Shaq himself, escorted by a five foot tall female cop. Couldn’t Shaq serve as him own bodyguard? Nonetheless, he sat down and as he did his presence immediately consumed the room. I’ll be honest, I was not expecting much. I figured his PhD was on free throw physics, even though it didn’t seem to help him during his career. Instead, I discovered that his research was in humor and organizational leadership. An interesting combination coming from the man that brought us the 90s cinematic classic, KAZAAM.
At the end up the lecture of humor communications, the floor was opened to the students for Q&A. I was called on and when I mentioned I was an Anthropology major, Shaq used his famous wit to make an Indiana Jones remark. At the end of the program, Shaq made his way to his car surrounded by security and his small entourage. Luckily, my car was parked in the same direction and I got to snag a picture with one of my basketball heroes. The picture really sums it all up because, at a little over five feet tall, I barely reach his elbow. What an amazing way to spend a Friday night at SMU!