Shaquille O’Neal is teaming with The General Insurance to surprise and support everyday people with financial assistance from challenges that may have emerged during the pandemic. The all-new, three-part video series, Shaq Gives Back, is now available on Bleacher Report.
“Giving back is something I have always been passionate about. I’m proud to have teamed up with my friends at The General – they were there for me when I needed them and this is a great example of how they are there for people when they need it most,” said O’Neal.
“We put our customers first in everything that we do,” said Elicia Azali, Chief Revenue Officer for The General. “Partnering with Shaquille and Bleacher Report in this amazing opportunity to support local businesses is an extension of that philosophy.”
“The past year has shown that there are stories of quiet heroism that deserve to be told, particularly about how small businesses are keeping our communities going,” said Ed Romaine, Head of Marketplace Image + Monetization, Turner Sports. “We are proud to be working with The General and Shaq to share those stories through Bleacher Report.”
In an exclusive, Shaq spoke with The Source about the roots of his philanthropic efforts, his efforts with The General, and his outlook on the NBA, including Zion Williamson being compared to him.
Today we’re talking about your new series, Shaq Gives Back. It’s a three-part series where you assist some Atlanta-based organizations that have been impacted over the last year. What did this experience teach you and overall, how did it make you feel?
Well, we all know the pandemic has led to devastating effects. The General Insurance and myself, we just want to give people a break from their financial challenges. So during the series, we wanted to go to the stores, the restaurants, a record store. When I went to his record store, it was a beautiful store and it was really affected. The owner didn’t know I was going to be there and I ask questions. “Hey, what’s up? Let me get this. Let me get to them to get that.” And then at the end, they had a nice check.
We went to a restaurant and this is a well-known restaurant, but you know, it’s a little slow in their business and they don’t want to fire people, so we took care of them. A nonprofit delivering meals, we wanted to make sure they had the monies that they need.
I’ve been with the general since 1989, and they took care of me. I was in college with a Bronco that had 97,000 miles on it. And they took care of me.
I was going to ask about that because of course, it’s an extension of your partnership with The General. You’re doing it in association with Turner Sports and Bleacher Report. How did you manage to have these business relationships believe in your vision, but also being willing to help the community?
Well, you know, if you don’t believe in that business alone, shame on you. I’m an old-school businessman, not in it to take people’s money. But like I said, when I was in college and drove an old, beat-up rusty Bronco, The General insurance was the only insurance that I could afford. Whenever we do deals with companies we tell them it needs to be a community aspect. The General they do a lot unseen I’ll call them like, Hey, I need money for this and they always take care of me. So they’re a very charitable organization and they’re all about making people happy and not to mention being a quality insurance company that is saving people money for 60 years.
We see you doing acts of generosity all the time. We’ve heard about you buying groceries at Walmart. Just the other day we saw you help out the guy in the jewelry store. You have initiatives like this, and we know you’re character and it’s not for the look, but it’s specifically because you have that in your heart. What do you think made or who put that piece of generosity in your spirit?
Dr. Lucille O’Neal, which happens to be my mother. She put her hands on my shoulders and said she loves me and that it was time to bless other people. I want you to make other people happy and do one good deed a day. I didn’t know what that meant until it just hit me. It’s not planned. The only time it’s planed is when I go to big stores like Walmart, Best Buy, furniture stores. That’s when this plan, that’s when I say, okay, I’m about to go buy me some furniture. I’m gonna walk around. And when I see something that reminds me of something, I take care of her. Every time I go to the Best Buy I’m in that lay-a-way section, just listening, I’m just listening to see what people are doing. If I ever see a mom with a kid, ding, ding, ding. Cause that used to be me and my mother. Whenever I’m in a Walmart, I’m roaming around the toy section just looking. I see some kids, I ask do they know who I am and if they are doing good in school. I meet their mom and ask if they can accept a bike from a stranger, we talk, and I buy the bike. Just little stuff like that to make people smile. My favorite things to buy are the 75 inch TVs that are just $700 now.
We know you as a man of many careers, aside from this series. Is there anything that is coming soon or that you’re working on that you think people will be really excited for or something that has you really excited?
This right here, without this financial assistance, these businesses will have to probably make the tough decision of letting some people go. So we just wanted to just let them know that we recognize we love him. We care and we’re doing it because we want other big corporations to follow up. I always know is I’ll always say if you get one big-time person to just take care of where they come from and where they live will be in a better place. I want to do, this is my dream. I want to do a 50 state Shaq-a-Claus Shaq-a-thon, that, for example, I’m sure I’m taking care of Atlanta, New Jersey, Louisiana, Texas, and California. Speaking of California, we’ve got Snoop Dogg in Long Beach. Send it to Oakland and we got Too Short. Kick it up to Portland and there is Dame Lillard. Have every big-time person take care of where they come from. If I could take care of the world I definitely would brother.
Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter and people comparing the dominance of Zion Williamson to you. How do you feel about that? Because of course they’ll never be another Shaq, but do you think it’s a disservice to him for them to attach words, comparing you two?
It wouldn’t say it’s a dishonor but when you get compared to the greats, people see something in you. Now I was taught that being great is about being super consistent. If I had two or three bad games in a row I would get the call from the board. “Hey, what you’re doing? Great guys, don’t do this.” He’s putting up good numbers, so I don’t think it’s a disservice. I think it should be something you should strive to be, not me or like me, but be better. I was going after one guy, Wilt Chamberlain. I wanted to beat all his records. I got him in championships but not points. If I beat him in points I was going to arrogantly say, I am Shaquille O’Neal, the most dominant player ever and I don’t want to hear nobody else’s name. Be quiet. The championships, I got him. But if I didn’t get hurt and played that last year in Boston I would have definitely passed him up.
You mentioned that you got the championships. We get the pleasure of seeing you every Tuesday and Thursday on TNT you seen and you know a lot of basketball. If you had to pick today, who’s going to be the team that’s left standing at the end?
Brooklyn versus Lakers. Let’s go conferences. Eastern Conference I want to see Brooklyn and Philly light it up. In the western conference I want to see Utah and LA.
I’m surprised. Why, why did you go to Utah? Cause I know a lot of people still want that battle of LA.
Yeah I know people still want the Battle of LA but I challenged Utah early and they stepped up. I went at Donovan Mitchell to see if he had it and it worked perfectly. He is working at a high level.
That record shop in Atlanta. If you went back what new album would you pick up and at the restaurant what would you suggest for a meal if someone visited?
Cheeseburger, steak, the restaurant has everything. For the record store it wasn’t about what was out now, but the old school stuff. Records are coming back believe it or not. I know a DJ who has about 100,000 records and will never sell them. The store was just so clean, he had CDs, movies, I bought a lot of stuff.