Shaquille O’Neal is known for being one of the most approachable athletes. In fact, he might even be one of the nicest celebrities in general.
Recently, Shaq was trending on Twitter because he paid off an engagement ring for a random stranger that he ran into at a jewelry store.
Over the years, O’Neal has done many good deeds for strangers. He’s also gone out of his way to help many of his teammates, as several former Lakers recounted in this Basketball News piece by Jeff Pearlman.
When Shaq recently appeared on Basketball News' “The Rex Chapman Show,” he was asked about this.
“Life is about being lucky. One, I’m just lucky,” Shaq told Basketball News. “I’m lucky that people still recognize a guy who hasn’t played basketball in 10-11 years. Secondly, it costs you nothing to be nice. Third of all, I’m blessed that a little 5-year-old kid that’s never seen me play basketball says, ‘I know him!’ Four, why would I be mean to a kid? Why would I be mean to a lady? Why would I be mean to a person who wants to take a picture?
"I’ve seen a lot of people in our world just dog people out. I’ve never been like that... Growing up in a military family, you’re not allowed to make two mistakes. So, if I’m out in L.A. and I see one of my favorite actors and he dogs a kid out, I’m like, ‘You can’t do that.’”
Shaq then told the story of the first time he met Kobe Bryant, which was another good-guy moment. Bryant was around 13 years old at the time.
“True story, and Kobe never told me this until after we played: A little kid comes into the locker room in Orlando and he wants to see Penny Hardaway. It’s Kobe!” Shaq said. “I never knew this until Kobe told me this story. He wants to see Penny, and Penny’s not a bad guy, but I don’t know what was going on that day and he was just [like], ‘Whatever.’ And Kobe was standing there. I actually remember this day, the kid was sitting there and I grabbed him like, ‘Come on, little fella; I’ll take a picture with you!’
"I never knew that kid was Kobe until he told me. We played together, had our fights and battles together, and then when we did that Lakers sit-down interview, Kobe said, ‘Hey man, you remember when I came in the locker room and wanted to see Penny and he blew me off?’ I was like, ‘That was you?!’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, that was me.’
“And then I said to myself, I want to be the guy that when you see my face, I want to make you smile. Because when you smile, it releases endorphins in your face and hopefully that can jump start your day and you can be a little stress free… I want to be the guy that can make you laugh.”
When Shaq gets stressed out or upset, he has a go-to method to cheer up.
“When I get stressed out? ‘Step Brothers,’ that’s the movie I’m watching,” Shaq said with a smile. “‘Don’t touch my f*cking drum set!’ I watch that part. It makes me laugh then I calm down and I’m like, ‘What’s the problem?’ And then I can figure it out. But I want to be the guy that can make you laugh.”