Shaquille O'Neal is undoubtedly one of the biggest names in the world of professional sports and has kept himself considerably busy since his 2011 retirement. But whether it be moonlighting as a dubstep DJ or serving as an NBA analyst on TNT, nothing quite compares to his role as dad.
The former Lakers center has six children. He has a daughter, Taahirah, 25, whom he shares with former girlfriend Arnetta Yardbourg. He also shares Shareef, 22, Amirah, 20, Shaqir, 18 and Me'arah, 15, with his ex-wife, Shaunie, as well as Myles, 25, who is Shaunie's son from a previous relationship.
He is vocal about his love for all of his children but has made it clear that his daughters receive preferential treatment and that he expects his sons to become providers.
"I try to teach my sons that when you're with a woman, you have to protect, provide and love. My daughters are like my little women, so I have to protect, provide and love. So if they wanna stay at home few more years until they figure out, that's my job as a father until they get ready to go into the world or until I pass 'em off to a husband. My boys are men. They've been men a long time. The boys understand. They understand it. They do," he tells Yahoo Life.
As far as his parenting style goes, though, O'Neal says he is easygoing.
"Growing up, I was the funny disciplinarian with my children," he says. He was also partial to letting real-life experiences be learning lessons for his children, who grew up with unfathomable privileges – something he made sure they were aware of from a young age.
"The first thing I tell 'em is, 'Yes, we are living like this. It's only a small percentage that live like this.' Then I take them around the corner to their cousin's house and be like, 'See what I told you,'" he says. "We're here, we're not gonna run away from it. You can keep being here, but this is what you have to do."
O'Neal says he never felt the need to physically discipline his kids, instead leaning into the sillier side of fatherhood.
"I never spank my kids. I used to chase them around like I was a wild dog. 'Didn't I tell you to come here?' Especially like when they were little ... So it was a little different but it worked, for me," he says.
And by all accounts, it appears that the unconventional approach to discipline has boded well for the Hall of Famer. Shareef plays in the NBA G-League, and Amirah currently plays basketball at Texas Southern University, where their younger brother Shaqir also plays. But it is not his kids' affinity for basketball alone that makes Shaq so proud of his brood.
"I can truthfully say that, and I don't like throwing this word around, but I got six perfect children. They've never given me problems. They've always listened; they've always been respectful," he says. "I can't say I did it all by myself. I had two wonderful mothers who actually did most of the work."
O'Neal places a high value on his kids' higher learning, revealing that pursuing further education comes with generous incentives in the his household – for his girls, that is.
"Education for my kids, for myself, is very important to me. I have a contract with my daughters, also. If you get into law school, you get a nice little thank you daddy package. Not with the boys, though, 'cause I don't think my boys are law school material, but all my girls are," he says.
This is not the first time he's shared his sentiments on parenting his daughters and sons differently. In an April episode of The Pivot Podcast, O'Neal said that his daughters could live at home as long as they want to, but his sons "got to go" once they hit 18.
While this may sound harsh, the devoted dad is clear that he still believes in helping his kids out and doesn't shy away from the fact that his children will benefit immensely from the fruits of his labor.
"I do believe in nepotism, but I believe in respectable nepotism," he explains. "If I build a company, I want you to know how to run a company. And that's what I'm trying to teach my kids. Like, hey, I'll give it to you, but you gonna have to gimme something back. You're gonna have to show me when I get ready to go into the old folks home, you have to show me that you can run it. I got six kids, just gimme one or two. Please take over what I've built and add onto it.
"This ain't about me. It's about you and your kids and your kids, kids," he continues. "I got it cracking. Now it's up to you to keep it cracking. If not, we're gonna go back to where we used to be, in the projects. Is that what you want?"
O'Neal is also committed to giving back to communities in need.
"The mission of [The Shaquille O'Neal Foundation] is to just help underserved youth achieve their full potential," he says. Its latest event, aptly named "The Event," took place on Oct. 1 in Las Vegas and was held in collaboration with the Boys and Girls Club of America, where O'Neal spent a lot of time growing up.
"The Boys and Girls Club was a safe haven for me," he explains. "It was there that I cultivated the character Shaq. It was there that I cultivated the Shaq that likes to rap and do all that stuff. It was there that I could just, you know, be different."
The event brought in $3.2 million to benefit both the Boys and Girls Club and Communities In Schools throughout Las Vegas and Atlanta, two of Shaq's hometowns.
"A lot of these schools, because of budget cuts and funding, they need help. So I wanna be the guy to make sure they get the bags or the pencils and shoes and the heaters," he says.
He also gave a special shout-out to his mom at the end of the gala, telling attendees, "Don't thank me, thank her."
"My parents never told me to do this, though," he says. "I just try to do it and hopefully [my kids] will follow. I never say do this, do this, do this. I just try to lead by example."
For all of the perks that come with having a superstar athlete as a parent, there are considerable drawbacks to having your adolescence placed under a microscope. O'Neal has leveled with his kids about the realities of fame.
"Now that they're adults, I just tell 'em, be smart and you gotta know what's going on and you gotta know that all eyes are on you. And you have to be a leader and not a follower," he says.
Above all, O'Neal loves "being a dad."
"I love having real conversations with them. I don't have to be hard on them because they didn't have the same trials and tribulations that I had growing up," he explains. "Gang fights, this and that, they don't have that. They wake up chef, school bus, friends, so they don't have to see that."
And even though his kids are mostly grown now, he still views them as his babies and is grateful to be their father.
"I'm lucky because… they know I love them. They know I support 'em."
-Video produced by Stacy Jackman
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