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Joseph Toney, Shaq’s Biological Father, Reunites With Son

Joseph Toney’s Similarities to Shaq

Joseph Toney had a lot in common with NBA star and Shaquille O’Neal, the son he never knew. He played high school basketball, and once had the title of All-State guard. He was also offered a scholarship to play college basketball at Seton Hall.

Joseph Toney’s height is only 6’1”, so he’s about 1-foot shorter than Shaq. He does, however, share the Los Angeles Lakers, Hall of Famer’s signature smile. Unfortunately, the love for basketball and certain facial features are where the similarities between the two end. 

Joseph Toney Goes To Prison

On one occasion, Joe Toney was imprisoned for drug possession. In another, he went to a federal prison in Lexington, KY for forging checks.

Joe agreed to give up his parental rights to Shaq’s mother, Lucille O’Neal. Lucille later gave those rights to her husband. After being released from prison, Toney did not make any attempts to contact his son until later in Shaq’s life.

Family To Military Base

Reasons as to why he waited so long to contact Shaq are all over the place. Shaq thought his father had left him as a baby and never looked back. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The real reason it was difficult for them to reunite was Shaq’s stepfather.

Shaquille O'Neal and his stepfather Phillip Harrison
Shaquille O’ Neal and his stepfather Phillip Harrison

The stepfather in question, a man named Phillip Harrison, was a career Army sergeant. Harrison raised Shaq from the age of two years old.

Harrison moved Shaq’s family to a military base in Germany. For years, Toney thought that he may never see Shaq again. He regained hope after seeing his son on television during a high school basketball game.

Joseph Toney Turns His Life Around

Joe Toney realized that he needed to turn his life around and began to work at a Goodwill. Joe began driving a delivery truck where his deliveries went to homeless shelters, and his reputation began to sky-rocket. 

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Not everyone was happy about Joe Toney turning his life around. Shaq’s stepfather was upset when Joe talked about being Shaq’s father on air during an NBA Finals game. Harrison said that Shaq’s biological father just wanted money and fame.

The truth is that Joseph Toney didn’t forget about his son. He kept Shaq’s birth certificate in a scrapbook that he carried around with him.

Shaq Claims Phillip Harrison As His Real Father

When O’Neal played for the Orlando Magic, Toney contacted the coaches and got permission to meet Shaq after a game. However, after the game, Shaq went out another exit, clearly avoiding Toney.

On Shaq’s 1994 rap song, “Biological Didn’t Bother,” Shaq praises his stepfather and shames Joseph Toney.

“I want to dedicate this song to Phillip Arthur Harrison. Because he was the one that took me from a boy to a man. So as far as I’m concerned, he’s my father.” – Shaq on the intro for “Biological Didn’t Bother.”

Shaq Meets His Biological Father For The First Time

The push for Shaq to meet his biological father came from his mother, Lucille O’Neal. She insisted, that he should give Toney a chance. Shaq, who was 47 at the time with 6 children of his own, almost did not listen.

However, after stepfather, Phillip Harrison died in 2013 and there was nobody there to discourage Shaq from meeting his dad. March 2016 rolled around, and Shaq was ready to meet his biological father for the very first time. 

Joe and Shaq met at Vonda’s Kitchen in Newark, New Jersey. It was a restaurant that Shaq frequented many times and Joe happened to live right above it.

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Joseph Toney and Shaquille O'Neal
Joseph Toney and Shaquille O’Neal
Joseph Toney and Shaq Let Go of The Past

“My job is to just love him as much as I can now,” Shaq said during his interview with Dr. Phil. Toney and O’Neal never speak of the past, simply choosing to move forward.

“He had some problems when he was young, I don’t judge him,” Shaq said. “As long as we’re both here, we just get to know each other.”

Dr. Phil asked if Shaq and Toney called each other regularly. Shaq said they talked at least once every two weeks and he allowed his father to meet his oldest daughter. 

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