Over a decade has passed since Shaquille O’Neal and his wife broke up and he is only now ready to discuss the problematic behavior he put Shaunie Henderson through.
“I was a d–khead,” the basketball legend admitted during an exclusive interview with PEOPLE. Speaking of his ex-wife Henderson, he proceeded to express the sentiments, “You don’t know how good you got something till it’s gone.”
O’Neal and Henderson initially married in 2002, during the height of the former Los Angeles Lakers player’s career. However, in 2007, he filed for divorce, citing “irrevocable damage” to his marriage as the culprit. The divorce was then put off another two years before Henderson filed as well in 2009.
In 2011, the divorce was finalized and Shaquille admitted that his habit of cheating was a large perpetrator in the split. In fact, the basketball legend has even called himself a “serial cheater” in the past. “Sometimes, when you make a lot of mistakes like that, you can’t really come back from that,” O’Neal added.
“And guess what? It’s your fault,” he said of himself and his infidelity. “I was living the good life.”
As the basketball legend continued, he explained that one of the most difficult parts of leaving his wife was the damage it did to his relationship with his children. O’Neal, who shares five children with Henderson, explained that “losing the privilege of having … joy” was detrimental to his mental health.
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Shaquille O’Neal discusses the importance of having a good relationship with his children
“The silence starts to get to you,” he added, discussing the contrast between having a house full of children to being alone in a quiet space without them. But, thankfully for the athlete, he was able to rekindle a relationship with his children, which he is grateful for.
“I’ve only got peace because they don’t hate me,” he stated, speaking of his children and their acceptance of him. “If they hated me, I probably would never have peace, but because we have a relationship and we’re cool, I have peace.”
However, the retired NBA champion insisted that if he is ever to marry again, he will not treat his future partner the way he treated his ex-wife. In fact, he said that his future wife will speak incredibly highly of him. “If it happens again, my next wife will be like, ‘He’s wonderful! He’s the best ever!’ Because I’ve learned from my mistakes,” O’Neal shared.
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