Not only will Shaquille O’Neal go down in history as basketball’s most dominant big man, but he will also be remembered in sneaker circles as the athlete who boldly wore head-to-toe Reebok to Nike’s world headquarters.
It was the early ’90s and a 20-year-old Shaq, who was expected to be the top pick in the 1992 NBA Draft, was shopping for a sneaker deal. His two biggest suitors: Nike and Reebok.
“I made it clear to everybody that I wanted my own shoe. I don’t think Nike understood how big I was going to be coming into the league. I wasn’t going to be one of those rookies that would bounce out of the league in two years,” Shaq told Sole Collector in an interview this week. “Nike didn’t want to give me my own shoe because they just signed [Alonzo] Mourning and that pissed me off. I was like, ‘Mourning, huh?’ I had Reebok everything on. They didn’t escort me out, but the meeting was short.”
Enter Reebok, whose basketball division at the time was run by industry veteran Roberto Muller and was the brand favored to win the Shaq Sneaker Deal Sweepstakes.
“Muller came in and said, ‘We know your demands. Here’s $3 million a year for five years. Don’t even look at the contract. Just sign it,'” Shaq recalled. The player was a lot more business savvy than Muller gave him credit for. As a college student, Shaq trademarked his signature logo with dreams of branding it on everything from sneakers to underwear.
“I had heard stories of players just signing shit without looking at it, so I had my guy look at it and he ended up getting me $5 million a year and all creative control,” he said. “I wanted to create all of my own commercials.”
And he did just that. For the release of his first signature sneaker, the Shaq Attaq, the player concepted the TV spot dubbed "Don't Fake the Funk on a Nasty Dunk." In the ad, Shaq teleports in front of a committee of legendary NBA centers. Shaq came up with idea when he was watching Terminator 2.
The sneakers featured in that commercial are also making a comeback. Reebok made a limited run of the O.G. Shaq Attaq in the player's size of 22 exclusively for memorabilia company Steiner Sports. All pairs are autographed by Shaq himself and you can get them here.