Shaunie O'Neal is the ex-wife of NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal. Born Va'Shaundya Karlette Nelson in Wichita Falls, Texas, in 1975, Shaunie and Shaquille began dating in 1998, two years after Shaq broke up with the mother of his first child, Arnetta Yardbourgh.
At the time, Shaunie was a film marketer in Los Angeles. Shaq and Shaunie would eventually get married in 2002. They remained together for the better part of the decade, sharing four kids together. They would split in 2009, after which Shaunie went on to achieve her own fame through starring in the VH1 reality TV series Basketball Wives.
Shaunie also starred in the show's spinoff series Basketball Wives LA, which premiered in 2011. Shaunie also serves as the executive producer on the two series, which would eventually converge in 2017 and is still on the air today. Shaunie is also the face of a spinoff series focused on her and her family, Shaunie's Home Court, which premiered in 2016.
Shaq and Shaunie would begin a whirlwind romance in 1998, when O'Neal was a superstar playing for the Los Angeles Lakers. On December 26, 2002, the couple wed in a secret ceremony at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset Boulevard, according to The Los Angeles Times. When they finally tied the knot, Shaunie and Shaq would already have two children together, Shareef, born in 2000, and Amirah, who was born in 2001. Shaunie also had a son, Myles, from a previous relationship, while Shaq had a daughter from his relationship with Yardbourgh. While they were married, Shaq and Shaunie would have two more children together, Shaqir, born in 2003, and Me'arah, born in 2006.
Marriage was a rocky prospect for the couple, as infidelity played a major role in Shaq and Shaunie separating briefly in 2007 before they finally divorced in 2009. In his 2011 memoir Shaq Uncut: My Memoir, the Hall of Fame center detailed what led to the dissolution of his marriage, according to a report by The Daily Mail.
"I was a guy with too many options. Choosing to be with some of those women, well, that's on me. In my mind, I never did it disrespectfully, but obviously I shouldn't have done it all," wrote Shaq in his book. "You know as well as I do relationships are about maintaining... It wasn't the big stuff, it was the small stuff, and that's my fault. I had things to do. I was trying to win, trying to make some money. I admit I wasn't the best partner. I just didn't know how. I'm learning now."
As their marriage fell apart, Shaunie would go as far as to hire private investigators to track her then-husband, and she herself would be accused of conducting her own extramarital affairs. While there was a prenuptial agreement signed, Shaunie was provided with spousal and child support as she took custody of the couple's three children.
Almost immediately after her split with Shaq, Shaunie would begin filming the VH1 reality TV show Basketball Wives, a Miami-based series that follows the lives of the wives, ex-wives, and girlfriends of professional basketball players.
The series premiered on April 11, 2010, to 1.58 million viewers. The Los Angeles-based spinoff Basketball Wives LA premiered in 2011, with Shaunie as executive producer. By the fourth season of the spinoff, with the original series on hiatus, Shaunie joined the LA cast full time.
With the original series off the air, Basketball Wives LA dropped the LA in 2017, and the cast of the original season reunited with the new members. The eighth season of Basketball Wives aired in 2019.