On October 13, 1978, Jermaine O’Neal was born in Columbia, South Carolina to Angela Ocean. Jermaine and his older brother, Clifford were raised by their mother when their father left the family before Jermaine was born. It was from his mother that Jermaine learned the value of persistence and hard work. Angela worked two jobs to support the family. With their father absent and mother constantly working to provide for the family, Jermaine and Clifford formed a close bond.
When not in school or studying, Jermaine spent most of his free time playing sports. From a young age, Jermaine was very athletic and had quick reflexes. His favorite sport as a youth was basketball, with football as a close second. Bill Russell and Hakeem Olajuwon were the athletes that Jermaine admired most while growing up. Russell’s commitment to defense and the professionalism demonstrated by Olajuwon’s on-court conduct were two aspects that Jermaine wanted to implement in his game.
Jermaine was a 6’4’’ guard when he entered Eau Clair High School of the Arts as a freshman. Because Eau Claire was a national powerhouse, Jermaine spent his freshman season on the junior varsity team. Over the next year, Jermaine grew five inches and transformed from a wing player to a post player. With the athleticism of a guard, the height of a center, and the rare ability to score with both hands, Jermaine quickly became a recognizable force on the national high school basketball landscape.
During the summer of 1995, Jermaine participated in the elite Nike ABCD camp where he competed extremely well against Tim Thomas, who was, at that time, considered the premier high school prospect in the nation. Going into his senior year, Jermaine was heavily recruited by the University of Kentucky, the University of North Carolina, the University of Maryland, Clemson and the University of South Carolina.
During his senior season, Jermaine averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots per game. His performance earned him various honors, including First Team All-State, South Carolina Player of the Year, Mr. Basketball, and a spot on the McDonald’s All–American team. Although Jermaine was heavily recruited by many of the top college basketball programs in the country, he had to weigh the option of declaring eligibility for the 1996 NBA draft. After much thought and deliberation, Jermaine decided to declare for the draft and was selected as the 17th pick by the Portland Trailblazers.
Jermaine served primarily in a reserve role throughout his tenure with the Trailblazers (1996-2000). Although playing time for Jermaine was limited with veterans such as Rasheed Wallace, Clifford Robinson, Arvydas Sabonis, and Brian Grant on the team, Jermaine demonstrated enough ability to warrant a $24 million, 4 year extension with the Blazers in the summer of 1999. However, after the 1999-2000 season, Jermaine appraised his situation with the Blazers and asked management to trade him. His request was granted that summer when he was traded to the Indiana Pacers for Dale Davis.
Jermaine took his game to another level when he began playing for the Pacers. During the 2001-2002 season, Jermaine’s first with the Pacers, he averaged 13 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game and earned a spot on the American roster for the 2001 Goodwill Games. In the 2002-2003 season, Jermaine increased his season averages to 19 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and was named to the All Star team, as well as to All-NBA third team. Jermaine led the Pacers to the best record in the NBA during the 2003-2004 season by averaging 20.1 points and 10 rebounds per game. Since then, Jermaine’s numbers have averaged around 20 points and 10 rebounds per game while becoming a perennial All-Star selection. He was also given the opportunity to represent America on Team USA, an amazing accomplishment for any athlete.
In the summer of 2008, Jermaine was traded to the Toronto Raptors. The team’s coach, Sam Mitchell, was fired after just 17 games, and the team decided to move in a different direction when it later traded Jermaine to Miami in February midway through the 2008-2009 season. In addition to his change of scenery, He would team up with Dwyane Wade to form one of the best inside-outside duos in the league. On the season, Jermaine posted averages of 13.3 points, 6.4 rebounds and 2 blocks.
In the 2009-2010 NBA season Jermaine O’Neal featured in 70 games for the Miami Heat averaging 6.9 rebounds and 13.6 points per game. With the help of O’Neal providing the Heat with a presence in the low post, the Heat became the first team since the 1968-69 San Diego Rockets to go from 15 wins to the playoffs in one year (finished 43-39). They were eliminated in seven games by the fourth seed Atlanta Hawks in the first round.
In the offseason heading into the 2010-2011 season, Jermaine was traded to the Boston Celtics, who just a year prior, had reached the NBA Finals. Jermaine struggled with injuries in his first year with the Celtics missing 58 games with knee and wrist injuries. O’Neal came back in the starting line-up off injury for the 2011 NBA Playoffs for a Celtics team that went 56-26 on its way to a 3 seed. Jermaine was a key defensive player in the first round sweep of the New York Knicks, but the Celtics eventually lost to the Miami Heat in the second round. Jermaine plans to return to the Celtics next year and pursue his first NBA championship.