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Away From Home

Sunday, June 26, 2005

On Shaq

To those of you who say that Shaquille O'Neal is a poor role model, look at this:

Shaquille O'Neal returned to the Forum on Saturday, not for an NBA game, but to pick up his MBA. The man who once called himself the Big Aristotle was the tallest and most famous of the 2,200 University of Phoenix graduates at the arena. But O'Neal said he was simply getting ready for the real world.

"It's just something to have on my resume (for) when I go back into reality," the 7-foot-1 Miami Heat center said before picking up his master's in business administration. "Someday I might have to put down a basketball and have a regular 9-to-5 like everybody else."

Oh, and he's also a police officer. Not just on paper, either -- he actually does actual police work:

O'Neal, who is currently leading the Miami Heat against the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference finals, has joined a Department of Justice task force that tracks down sexual predators who target children on the Internet.

The 7-foot-1, 325-pound center was recently sworn in as a U.S. deputy marshal and, on the Saturday afternoon before the Miami-Washington playoff series, O'Neal spent six hours with Miami Beach police investigators helping with cases.

Miami Beach Police Chief Don De Lucca says O'Neal is becoming familiar with the techniques and software the officers use to track down the predators. O'Neal spends countless hours on his home computer, logging into the police network and learning the ropes.

"I put a lot into it, and when I am done playing, I plan on going undercover and then being the sheriff or chief of police somewhere, either Miami or Orlando, I don't know yet," O'Neal said recently. "Everyone knows the love I have for the people who defend the streets and the people who defend our country, the armed forces, the Army, Navy, Marines. I want to do something like that, help the community.

"And I want to do it the right way, like everybody else, not just a famous figurehead that gets a job because he is a famous basketball player. I want to really learn the business."

Still say he's not a good role model?


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