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Just Call Him "Dr. O'Neal"

MIAMI SHORES (CBSMiami) – You can now call former Miami Heat player Shaquille O'Neal "Dr. O'Neal."

The retired NBA superstar graduated Saturday with a doctoral degree in education from Barry University in Miami Shores.

Speaking one on one with CBS4's Jim Berry, Shaquille O'Neal continually praised his parents for everything he's done.

He said his mother would always congratulate him after a great basketball game but ask him what his back up plan was if he blew out his knee.

O'Neal's mother also told Berry she invested in her son like every parent should and she got a wonderful return.

She said the 40-year old paid for her college education and the college of education of his siblings as well.

O'Neal said of all his accomplishments in life getting his doctorate was at the top of the list.

His mother confirmed that indeed was true.

With those sentiments, Saturday he joined more than 1,100 students at commencement ceremonies at the James L. Knight Center in Miami.

Wearing a bright red XXXL-sized robe, the 7-foot, 1, 325-pound retired center got on one knee on stage so Dr. David M. Kopp could place a light blue hood around his big neck. O'Neal celebrated by standing up and lifting up Kopp like Tarzan rescuing Jane. The moment, which was being captured by TV cameras and student's cell phones, brought on loud cheers from the crowd.

Shaq has been taking classes for the past 4 ½ years. He took 16 courses, completed 54 credit hours and carried a grade point average of 3.81, according to the university. His degree is in Organizational Learning and Leadership, with a specialization in human resource development.

O'Neal left Louisiana State University after three years to join the NBA in 1992, but eight years later fulfilled a promise to his mother by completing his bachelor's degree in general studies. In 2005, he received a master's of business administration through the University of Phoenix online degree program.

O'Neal won four NBA Championships — one with the Heat in 2006. He is a 15-time All-Star, three-time NBA Finals MVP, and 2000 NBA MVP. He is a television analyst with TNT. He has recorded rap albums, appeared in films, and dabbled in law enforcement as a reserve officer in Miami Beach and Los Angeles.

In a university released, Shaq stated, "This is for my mother, who always stressed the importance of education. I am proud to have achieved a doctoral degree and wish to thank my professors and Barry University for helping make this dream a reality. I'm smart enough to know that, even at my tender age, my pursuit of education is never finished."

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