The Bizarre (But Valid) Reason Shaq Thinks He’s Akin to Santa Claus

Shaquille O’Neal, better known as Shaq, is most famous for his time in the NBA, and at a hulking 7’1,” it’s no wonder. He had a long and successful basketball career and retired in 2011. These days, however, he is far from living the retired lifestyle.

Shaq has been wisely investing his NBA earnings in franchises and other ventures for years and has become a shrewd businessman worth millions and counting.

With that financial stability and his big heart, he has the time, freedom, and means to be as generous as Santa.

Shaq speaks onstage
Shaquile O’Neal | Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year 2019

Why did Shaq start donating toys every Christmas?

 In 1992, Shaq got a call from his mother, Lucille O’Neal, who was volunteering at the local Boys & Girls Club at the time. She had an urgent and mysterious request: She wanted to borrow some money and at first, but didn’t say why.

When Shaq asked her to elaborate, she explained that she was beginning to hear from the kids at the club that they wouldn’t be getting any Christmas presents and she wanted to help out… all 500 of them.

Shaq could hear the worry in her voice and told her he’d take care of it. Soon after, he and his uncle Jerome rented two U-Haul trucks and then, Shaq said in an interview with AOL HQ: “We went to Toys “R” Us and we just wiped them out.”

The two drove the trucks to the Boys & Girls Club and passed out hundreds of toys to the children. 

Shaq was no stranger to difficult Christmas mornings himself. When he was a child his family struggled financially and he went some years without a gift as his younger siblings got prioritized. He said, “I know what it’s like to wake up and not get one, single toy on Christmas and I don’t want any child to have to go through that.”

He did have one great Christmas gift that changed his life, however, a signed Dr. J (Julius Erving) basketball. This gift stuck with him and goes to show that a single generous gift can have a huge impact on a child’s future.

What is the annual Shaq-a-Claus event?

Now, what was once an impromptu act of generosity at a Boys & Girls Club in 1992, is an annual event with several corporate partners. In its current iteration, Shaq-a-Claus is partnered with online shoe retailer Zappos.

Together they invite generous donors to box up and send in brand new toys for them to distribute to kids in need. The event also receives donations from Amazon, JAKKS, Krispy Kreme (of which he owns one franchise), and more.

During Shaq-a-Claus in 2019, Shaq visited Wesley Lakes Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia. The event provided gifts, games, and activities to over 800 students. It also provided haircuts, jackets, and backpacks.

Shaq really enjoys the annual event saying, “Nothing is more rewarding than making a child’s Christmas a little brighter when their families may not have the means.” 

How else is Shaq like Santa?

For his annual event, Shaq dons the classic attire of Santa with a big red suit and jolly hat. The only thing he skips is the beard. His similarities to Santa go beyond the getup. He holds himself to the same standards he’s seen in the stories of old St. Nick, namely, to always give and never receive.

He told Page Six: “I do not accept gifts. You show me a movie where Santa receives gifts and I’ll take one.” He mentions nothing of cookies and milk, but one can assume he may indulge in the occasional Krispy Kreme donut.

Shaq has been doing his annual Shaq-a-Claus event now for nearly 30 years and hopes to continue for at least another 30 more.