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Real Talk: Shaq, Cheating is Disrespectful

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Retired NBA star Shaquille O'Neal is telling all in his new memoir, "Shaq Uncut: My Story," which hit shelves (and Kindles) last week. Of course, he details his feud with Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and why he left the Lakers, but it’s his admissions about cheating on his ex-wife Shaunie O’Neal that are garnering the most interest from readers.

Despite his very messy divorce after eight years of marriage, Shaq says he never cheated on his wife “disrespectfully.”

"At one time my ex-wife Shaunie and I were happy,” he wrote. “But I admit it -- I was a guy. 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."

Huh?

Their well-documented 2009 divorce became public fodder when The YBF revealed racy emails exchanged between Shaq and "Basketball Wives L.A." co-star Laura Govan, the fiancée of Washington Wizards’ Gilbert Arenas and mother of Arenas’ four children. (Govan says the emails were fake and that she did not cheat on Arenas during her nine-year relationship.)

In August, another batch of emails surfaced. They were from November 2008, shortly after Shaq and his wife had reconciled after a very public separation. (Remember the rumor about Shaunie cheating with her trainer and financing his lifestyle? She told ESSENCE it didn’t happen.) The Miami New Times exposed correspondence between Shaq and Newsweek writer Allison Samuels in which he hit up Samuels for a hookup with a host of women, including model Sessilee Lopez, actress Sharon Leal and singer Rihanna.

I don’t know if it gets more disrespectful than having the emails between you and your mistress become public fodder, or documentation of a married man soliciting side-pieces exposed to the world. (And as I recall, Shaunie O’Neal explained during a visit to ESSENCE.com that the cheating was so bad that women would show up at their family home.)

So we’re clear, there is no respectful way to cheat. If you take vows to be faithful or agree to be in a monogamous relationship, and you’re out having sex with other people, you’re disrespecting the commitment. Cheating is inherently disrespectful -- it’s deceptive, lying by omission or outright to cover tracks, and it exposes the cheater and their partner to health risks, including STDs including HIV. As far as relationships go, cheating is one of the most disrespectful acts you can commit.

Thankfully, Shaq adds that he is a changed man. "You know as well as I do relationships are about maintaining,” he writes. “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.”

He’s currently engaged to reality star Nikki “Hoopz” Alexander from “Flava of Love.” Let’s hope he gets it right the second time around.

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk
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