Jermaine Lee O'Neal (born October 13, 1978) is an American professional basketball player for the Boston Celtics. The 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m), 255 lb (115 kg) forward-center had a successful high school career and declared his eligibility for the 1996 NBA Draft straight out of high school. He was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers with the 17th pick of the first round, but O'Neal was unable to break into the first team in Portland and was traded to the Indiana Pacers in 2000. In his eight seasons with the club, he was voted an NBA All-Star six times, made the All-NBA teams three times, and was voted the NBA Most Improved Player in the 2001–02 season. He also helped Indiana reach the NBA Playoffs six times, including the Conference Finals in the 2003–04 season. He was traded to the Toronto Raptors before the 2008–09 season began, and traded to the Miami Heat midway through the same season. O'Neal joined Boston prior to the 2010–11 season.
Jermaine O'Neal was born in Columbia, South Carolina. Both he and his elder brother, Clifford, were raised single-handedly by his mother, Angela Ocean. Ocean worked hard to support her sons, and left her children largely to their own devices. O'Neal found his love for athletics at a young age. Tall and quick, he enjoyed both football and basketball, but basketball was his favorite sport. Two of his basketball heroes are Hakeem Olajuwon and Bill Russell; O'Neal often marveled at the former's approach to the game, while he loved watching the latter's video highlights of his duels with Wilt Chamberlain.
Each summer, he would play for an AAU team, and impressed onlookers with his athleticism and his ability to handle the ball with both hands. By the time he turned 14, the 6'4" O'Neal—now a confident guard who could drain three-pointers—entered Eau Claire High School of the Arts as a freshman in 1992. In his first meeting with basketball coach George Glymph, he made the bold promise to become the best player in the school's history. While O'Neal's first season was hardly noteworthy (he even played as quarterback for the Eau Claire team) things changed when he grew five inches over the next year and a half, and he was inspired to develop into a defensive powerhouse like his idol Russell. Glymph built his team's defense around O'Neal, and Eau Claire featured one of the most imposing frontcourts around. With O'Neal averaging 18 points, 12 rebounds and 9 blocks a game, Eau Claire captured its third straight 3A state title in 1995.