Who is Shaq’s birth father Joseph Toney, and where is he now? Taking a closer look at Joseph Toney’s personal life

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Shaquille O'Neal met his biological father only in 2016

NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal grew up to be one of the best in his sport and a successful businessman. However, childhood was not always easy for him, growing up without his biological father. O'Neal was a toddler when his birth father, Joseph Toney, was arrested for drug possession and forging checks.

US Army sergeant Phillip Harrison raised Shaq. Harrison later married O'Neal's mother, Lucille O'Neal. Harrison saw potential in O'Neal and was a guiding force throughout his basketball career. Harrison was the one who introduced O’Neal to basketball, giving NBA fans a superstar.

How is Shaq’s relationship with his birth father, Joseph Toney?

Joseph Toney spent around six years in prison after abandoning his family. When he was out, his son and wife had moved to Germany. Toney went on for years without trying to make an effort to get back in touch with Shaq and his former wife. Later, Toney made an effort. Phillip Harrison forbade those efforts, and it remained that way until his death.


However, three years after Phillip Harrison’s death, O’Neal was open to the idea of meeting his biological father after some persuasion from his mother. Shaq met Toney at Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark, New Jersey.

“I don't hold a grudge because my life went the way it was supposed to go. I live a really good life from a guy who's not even my biological father. He made me who I am today, so I have to respect that, I have to understand that, and I don't dwell on anything else.” Shaq said when asked about meeting Joseph Toney.

Growing up, Toney played high school basketball and became an All-State guard. His efforts won him an offer for a basketball scholarship at Seton Hall, but little else is known about his basketball career.

Toney was later drawn into the world of drugs and turned into an addict, hurting his family in the process. Once he was out of jail, Toney reportedly tried to lead a reformed life. He became the driver of a delivery truck that would supply food and other necessities to homeless shelters.


Although O'Neal had every reason to be mad with his biological father, he chose to see things differently. He went on “Dr.Phil” and spoke about meeting his biological father at 44. Shaq said:

“It ain’t about what happened. Cause I’ve learned you can’t judge a man. I don’t judge. He had some problems when he was young. I don’t judge him. I don’t fault him. My thing now is just that as long as we’re both here, we just get to know each other.”

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Edited by Chad Marriott
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