During the 25th anniversary of the Texas State Championship on Saturday, Shaquille O’Neal spoke highly of the 1989 state championship team and coaches at San Antonio Cole High School. He said that he owes a lot of his success to them as he and the team were honored at the anniversary.
“We were just a little school in San Antonio. No one believed in us, but the lessons I learned at Cole carried my whole career — being humble, playing hard, working with your teammates,” O’Neal said. “Cole gave me the start of my dreams.”
Shaquille O’Neal won four NBA championships and an Olympic gold medal in a career that will undoubtedly land him in the Hall of Fame.
O’Neal’s family moved to San Antonio before his junior year from Germany when he as a kid, already stood nearly 6-foot-10. One coach tried to push him towards football but he didn’t take it. As a senior, O’Neal averaged 32 points, 22 rebounds and eight blocks in leading Cole to a 36-0 record and the Class 3A state title. On Friday, Cole retired his No. 33 high school jersey.
On Saturday University Interscholastic League director Charles Breithaupt said O’Neal was the “greatest player to ever play” in the Texas state tournament.
Other NBA stars such as Chris Bosh, T.J. Ford and Kendrick Perkins also won state titles.
O’Neal remembered Cole started slow in the ’89 championship game.
“The look on everyone’s face was kind of blank, the fans were quiet,” said O’Neal, who told his teammates to give him the ball and they would win. They went ahead to win 66-60 against Clarksville. O’Neal had 19 points, 26 rebounds, three blocks and six assists.
After high school, he signed at LSU with dreams of playing in the NBA.
“My dream in high school was to make $8 million for a five-year NBA contract,” O’Neal said. “I dreamed of having a little house and two cars, a Mercedes … Things turned out a lot better than that.”