‘I know I messed up’: Shaquille O’Neal opens up about his 2011 divorce on ‘The Pivot Pod’

Shaquille O’Neal has spent plenty of time in front of the camera.

Never has he opened up about his divorce from ex-wife Shaunie Nelson in 2011.

“I was bad. She was awesome,” he said on “The Pivot Podcast” on Tuesday.

Co-host Channing Crowder had said to the 7-foot-1 four-time NBA champion: “With the divorce – you had controlled your life forever. You couldn’t control that.”.

“No, I couldn’t,” O’Neal said.

O’Neal first filed for divorce in 2007 but the couple reconciled and the request was withdrawn. Two years later, Nelson filed for divorce and it was finalized in 2011.

“It was all me,” the Basketball Hall of Famer said. “We don’t need to talk about what I was doing, but I wasn’t protecting her and protecting those vows. Sometimes you live that double life and get caught up. I’m not going to say it was her. It was all me.”.

O’Neal, who serves as an analyst on the “Inside the NBA” studio show, kept pointing the blame back on himself.

“She did exactly what she was supposed to do,” he said. “Take care of the kids. Take care of the house. Take care of corporate stuff. It was just all me.”.

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Nelson and O’Neal married in 2002 and had four children together. (O’Neal has a daughter with Arnetta Yardbourgh. He also is a father to Nelson’s son from a previous relationship.) O’Neal had previously revealed his feelings about his relationships and family in his 2011 book “Shaq Uncut: My Story” with Jackie MacMullan.

“The best feeling for me was coming home and hearing five or six different voices,” he said on the podcast. “Doesn’t matter if I miss 15 free throws and we lost. They don’t care about that.”.

“Sometimes when you make a lot of mistakes like that, you can’t really come back from that. But as I get older and you dwell on situations, I can honestly say it was all me.”.

O’Neal admitted to “being greedy.”.

“I had the perfect situation,” he said. “Wife was finer than a mug. Kept giving me babies. Still finer than a mug. I had it all. I don’t make excuses. I know I messed up. When I didn’t have that — I don’t like to use the d-word because I don’t really know what it is — I was lost. 76,000 square foot house by yourself. Lost. No kids. Go to the gym, nobody’s playing. You go to their room, nobody’s there. You start to feel it.”.

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Once O’Neal gathered himself, he said, he realized he wanted to protect and provide for his family — including the mother of his children.

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“I may not be a husband, but I’ll always be a father … I have two — I don’t like to use the term ‘baby mamas’ — I have two wonderful women that haven given me beautiful, gorgeous children. I have to protect and I have to provide and I have to love for them forever. That’s why I have to work so hard. I don’t work for me. I got it all. I got to work for them. I got to work for my six babies.”.

On the court, O’Neal is one of the game’s all-time greats. Drafted out of Louisiana State, he started his career with the Orlando Magic (1992-96), won three championships alongside Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers (1996-2004) and ended his prime with another ring while on the Miami Heat (2004-08).

He retired in 2011 as a 15-time All-Star. His ferocious dunks shattered backboards and roughed up opponents while collecting four NBA titles, three Finals MVPs and one regular-season MVP.

He had a larger than life personality that extended off the court and onto the big screen as an actor.

“The Pivot Pod” is hosted by Channing, a former NFL linebacker; Ryan Clark, a former NFL defensive back and ESPN analyst; and Fred Taylor, the former running back who starred for the Jacksonville Jaguars and ended his career with the New England Patriots.

O’Neal grouped his relationship with Nelson among his regrets, along with the way things fell apart with ex-teammates Penny Hardaway (with the Magic) and the late Kobe Bryant (with the Lakers).

O’Neal said he was open to talking about the divorces, but that he’s rarely been asked by the media or talked about it on his own show.

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“I never talk about this,” O’Neal said. “I’m glad you guys asked because I don’t mind talking about this.”.

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

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