College, for O'Neal, became confining. Always quick to unleash the uninhibited side of his nature, he was evicted from the dormitory at LSU for rowdy behavior shortly before the beginning of his junior year. He took a reprimand on another occasion for possessing an illegally funded cell phone, which (as it turned out) was a phony—a toy he carried to impress co-eds. In April, 1992, rather than re-enroll for his senior year, O'Neal announced his availability for the NBA draft.
On June 24, the day of the draft, he was picked first in the first round. Drafted by the Orlando Magic, he signed with that team for $41 million for seven years. His was the largest rookie contract in the history of professional basketball.
O'Neal was named player of the week after his first week as a rookie. It was a first-time occurrence in the NBA, and he was named as a starter in the All-Star game—another rare feat for a rookie. His rebounds, blocks, and starts ranked as team highs for the season, and averaged 23.4 points per game. That year the Magic more than doubled its win record from the previous year. The team went to a 41-41 record, which was 20 wins more than the previous season.
With 50 wins for the 1993-4 season, the Magic went to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. O'Neal already had dunked 709 times in his first two years as a pro. As he made strides in his professional career, he continued taking college courses through an independent studies programs at LSU during the off-seasons. On December 15, 2000, he graduated with a general studies degree and a minor in political science. When O'Neal flew to Baton Rouge for the commencement he was honored by the school with a ceremony to retire his LSU jersey, Number 33.
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