View Full Version : Why JO is the best franchise player for Indiana (Indystar)

06-20-2004, 07:07 AM
from today's Indystar;

Daddy dearest
Jermaine O'Neal has put his family first, working to be the loving father he never had as a child


Asjia O'Neal, accompanied by her mother, Lamesha Roper (left), blows a kiss to her dad from courtside during the playoffs. -- Matt Kryger / The Star

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By Phil Richards
June 20, 2004

Today figures to be a lot like any other during Jermaine O'Neal's offseason. He will hug his 4-year-old daughter, Asjia, early, and probably read her a bedtime story late. Father's Day isn't about having a dad for the Indiana Pacers' All-Star forward, it's about being one.

"Asjia, that's his heart, his pride and joy," said O'Neal's older brother, Clifford Jr.

"He adores her," said O'Neal's mother, Angela Jones.

"No. 1 in his life," testified teammate Al Harrington. "Everything he does is for her. She definitely owns Jermaine."

O'Neal, his fiancee, Lamesha Roper, and their daughter are in Portland, Ore., visiting Lamesha's family and friends Jermaine made while playing for the Trail Blazers from 1996-2000.

Father's Day plans do not include Jermaine's father. Clifford O'Neal Sr. abandoned his family before Jermaine was born. Jermaine graduated from high school before he met his father. Jermaine has no relationship, no connection, with the man Clifford Jr. said abused their mother, emotionally and physically.

"To me, he's not really a dad," said Jermaine, 25. "A father, a dad, is a guy who loves his kids and wants to be with his kids."

If you hope to understand one of the NBA's best players, what anchors and inspires him, what gives his life depth and richness and meaning, this is what you must know: Basketball is his second passion. What comes first is family, and being the father he never had.

When O'Neal arrived at Eau Claire High School in Columbia, S.C., as a freshman in the fall of 1992, he was a 6-4 13-year-old. He was ambidextrous. He could handle the basketball, shoot and pass. He could play on the perimeter or in the post or on the move anywhere in between.

Yet he had played no organized junior high school basketball. He had a record of truancy and troublemaking. There were fights, episodes of petulance, disobedience and rebellion. O'Neal was kicked out of one school and repeatedly suspended at another. He made regular appearances before the "hearing board." He was barred from several recreational gyms. He wouldn't, couldn't submit to the discipline and regimentation of organized basketball, let alone school.

Angela is Jermaine's hero, her family's backbone, but she also was its sole provider. She worked two jobs: as an aide at a state hospital and as a customer service representative at a bank. She worked all the time.

"She had very little time to spend with him," said George Glymph, then much-esteemed basketball coach at Eau Claire, located a short walk through impoverished, crime-ridden streets from O'Neal's childhood home. "Other kids have dads and they do things together. Jermaine didn't. That gets to kids. I've seen that a lot.

"You act out. You want attention."

O'Neal played quarterback in Pop Warner football. All the dads came to games, all except his. Mom was there. He loved her completely, as she loved him, but there was no salving the ache. He hurt deep inside.

"That did something to me," O'Neal said. "Coming through school, I always felt I wasn't good enough to have a father."

Glymph was O'Neal's salvation. He provided the example, the tough love, the order and discipline O'Neal so desperately craved. Glymph's relationship with Angela became one of trust. If Jermaine didn't show up at school, Glymph went to his home and dragged him out of bed.

Jermaine blossomed. His life changed. He improved in school. He excelled in basketball. His "excursions," as Glymph called them, ended. Jermaine became the model citizen of a model basketball program.

Glymph stopped by the O'Neal home one Saturday morning and took Jermaine to breakfast at Lizard's Thicket, a Columbia chain. It was the first time Jermaine had been in a restaurant; his life permitted no such extravagances. Jermaine ordered a huge plate of pancakes. It was the first of many Saturday mornings at Lizard's Thicket, sessions that always left O'Neal with a belly full of pancakes and a head full of wisdom.

"We talked about life," said Glymph, now a New York Knicks assistant coach who still speaks with Jermaine by phone almost every day. "We talked about some of the experiences we had living in the Deep South. How you handle people. How you talk to people. How you look them in the eye, not down, not away. Treat people the way you want to be treated. Measure what you say and what you do. Don't hurt anybody."

The Trail Blazers made O'Neal the 17th pick of the 1996 NBA draft. He was weeks out of high school, not yet 18 years old. He went to Portland with the two most important men in his life, brother Clifford, three years his senior, and Glymph, whom the Trail Blazers hired as director of player development.

He met there the woman he will marry Aug. 22, 2005, in the Bahamas. Lamesha and Jermaine fell deeply in love, but neither was prepared for the turn taken by their relationship.

God sends his blessings in all manner of guises. "Mesha" became pregnant.

"I was shocked. We both were shocked," said Mesha, 25, then a Portland State University student. "It changed Jermaine. He thought more. He slowed down and became more responsible. He thought about the things he needed to do to take care of his family for his daughter to have the kind of life he always wanted."

O'Neal can't recommend the path that took him and Mesha to parenthood. Neither can he disavow it. Asjia is too great a treasure. She healed him.

"I've always had a void in my life," O'Neal said. "My daughter filled that void.

"She took away some of the anger and some of the hurt that I've had for so many years and redirected it into a positive situation so I could raise my daughter the way I wanted to be raised."

Jermaine has blossomed in his four seasons with the Pacers. He is one of the NBA's few 20-point, 10-rebound producers. He finished third in 2004 MVP voting.

But basketball isn't his only game. He plays video games, laser tag, Candy Land and checkers with Asjia, and they both play for keeps. Daughter and dad are similarly competitive, Mesha said.

Jermaine and Asjia were playing a couple of days after Christmas. Mesha's parents were in town. So were Jermaine's mother, grandmother and cousin.

"Who would you rather live with," Jermaine teased, "your mom or your dad?"

Asjia's response went straight to his heart.

"Daddy, why can't I live with both of you?" she asked.

O'Neal signed a seven-year, $126 million contract last summer. His future was secure, but undefined. He began thinking. He made some decisions.

On New Year's Day, he proposed to Mesha. She was shocked. She accepted. Their commitment to one another has deepened in the months since.

It was a busy New Year's. Jermaine already had provided his mother with the home, the cars, the clothes and baubles and security she had never had, but his sense of gratitude to his brother was no less keen. It was Clifford who worked throughout high school, stocking shelves at Food Lion, digging ditches for a construction company, bringing home his paycheck and giving it to his mother one week and to Jermaine the next, never keeping more than lunch money.

It was Clifford's turn. Jermaine, who has never filled out a job application, never had a job other than NBA forward, gave his brother $1 million Jan. 1 and set him up with the financial team that manages his fortune.

"If you love a person like my mom loved us, you should be able to sacrifice without any doubt or hesitation. My thing was to make sure they were all right," said Clifford, who plans to continue working and will move from Indianapolis to Livingston, N.J., at month's end. "I never expected my brother to do that. I just wanted him to be happy."

That's where this story seems to be headed, for all parties. The cycle of hurt and poverty and absentee fatherhood and abuse has been broken.

It's a happy Father's Day.

06-20-2004, 02:35 PM
That is an awesome article.

06-20-2004, 03:53 PM
yeah it's a great tear jerking, PC, piece of fluff designed just for a day like today. Can she block shots tho? And has she declared early entry into the draft or is she gonna sit out another year first?

Piffle, I wanna know what's going on with his knee not his soul.

Pig Nash
06-20-2004, 04:36 PM
yeah it's a great tear jerking, PC, piece of fluff designed just for a day like today. Can she block shots tho? And has she declared early entry into the draft or is she gonna sit out another year first?

Piffle, I wanna know what's going on with his knee not his soul.

Damn, you really are a geezer. here's hoping maybe you can enjoy your family a little bit. :cry:

I think that geezer was just tryin to live up to his name their and overdid it. :unimpressed:

06-20-2004, 07:08 PM
Nice jersey in the bkgd of that picture.

06-20-2004, 07:11 PM
It's a cute story but I'm kinda with geezer on this one.
The story has nothing to do with wheter he is a good or bad franchise player. I'm with the former but it has nothing to do with his offcourt personality.

06-20-2004, 07:13 PM
Why anyone has any type of problem with this article is beyond me. It's sweet, it shows that JO loves his family, and that's all it's really meant to do IMO.

06-20-2004, 08:52 PM
Oh I have no trouble with the article, I thought it was fine. I just thought the header made no sense.

06-20-2004, 09:20 PM
If you have a hard time understanding the header then that is up to you.

It makes perfect sense, if you want someone to represent your product you want not only a picture of capacity (3d in MVP voting is that) but you want also a wholesome product, a famliy value endorsed product, hard to find in the NBA.

JO does a lot of things right, on and off the court and the latter is important in his form of rolemodel and superstar.
I rather have a superstar kids look up to and see that he is good to his GF?wife and Kid then one that grabs a headline for smugglingattempts of dope or violence or wifebeating.
This guy shows you it aint so "tough" to beat your GF up, it's far better to be nice to her.