Now more than a decade since their split, Shaquille O'Neal is able to be honest with himself about the faults that led to his divorce from ex-wife Shaunie Henderson.
"I was a d--khead," the 50-year-old NBA icon tells PEOPLE in this week's cover story. "You don't know how good you got something till it's gone."
In 2011, O'Neal and Henderson, now an executive producer of the VH1 reality series Basketball Wives, divorced amid reports of his infidelity.
"And guess what? It's your fault," he says of himself. "I was living the good life."
Cassy Athena/Getty Shaquille and Shaunie O'Neal
Exacerbating the pain of a failed marriage was the absence of their five kids — Shareef, 22, Amirah, 20, Shaqir, 19, Me'arah, 15 and Myles, 25 — in the house, a trauma O'Neal says is "losing the privilege of having … joy."
Overnight, he recalls a house "full of noise and relatives" falling quiet: "Second day. Third day. Fourth day… forever. The silence starts to get to you."
Mark Sullivan/Getty Shaunie and Shaquille O'Neal
However, O'Neal tells PEOPLE he believes a second chance at marriage could be in the cards. "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."
RELATED VIDEO: Shaquille O'Neal Blames Himself for Divorce from Ex-Wife Shaunie: 'It Was All Me'
Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.
In addition to his mistakes as a husband, O'Neal acknowledges he missed milestones in his children's lives, but he's found peace in reconnecting and watching them pursue their passions and education.
"I've only got peace because they don't hate me," he says. "If they hated me, I probably would never have peace, but because we have a relationship and we're cool, I have peace."
For much more with Shaquille O'Neal, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.