Shaq Takes the Rucker

Shaquille O'neal at Rucker Park

As Reebok Classic gears up for the re-release of Shaquille O’Neal’s Shaqnosis kicks, the second sneaker produced under the footwear conglomerate for the former NBA All-Star, the shoe retailer decided to bring the seven-foot-one-inch basketball-giant-turned-sports-analyst for a surprise visit to Rucker Park’s Entertainer’s Basketball Classic tournament, better known to the public as EBC, sponsored by none other Reebok. The famed park, located on the corner of 155th and 8th Avenue in Harlem, is home to legendary b-ball showdowns where natural selection takes its course because only the best survive. So why not bring out a ball-and-hoop legend?

When first arriving to a park full of basketball fanatics, screams filled the block’s radius as kids produced their biggest Colgate smiles uttering the words, “Shaq, Shaq, Shaq!” It was clear that Christmas certainly came early for Harlem’s youth this year. And while fans tried to swarm the former Lakers player, security stepped in while the media beat the kids and their parents to the punch.

Recognizing that the game is nothing without the fans, and holds a special importance in the “community,” Shaq gave EBONY.com the scoop on the dying breed of neighborhood street ball celebs going pro from tournaments like the EBC Classic. “There’s a lot of talent that could make it, but [the NBA] wants more and more fundamental stuff in our game,” the TNT analyst said. “When you become a big man guy, then you can do anything you want—A.I., Kobe, LeBron, you know name it. It’s actually harder for these guys to get in, but it’s possible.”

While "the Big Shaqtus" admits the NBA isn’t running after the most talented players with names circulating the streets, he didn’t downgrade the importance of parks like the Rucker and what it means to make it on the court in places with such recognition in the community. “A lot of people could be wherever they’re from and say I can play at Rucker Park, then when they come up here and get crossed and get embarrassed and go back home…well, you asked to come up here and play and couldn’t pursue,” said Shaq.

But even though the 325-pound now sports commentator was at the Rucker for the community, he had no problem as the media kindly reminded him about the re-release of his Shaqnosis sneaker, which first hit the market in 1995 during his final season with the Orlando Magic. In 1996, just after the hypnotizing black and white shoe hit stores, ShaqDiesel told The New York Times "I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi [and] wear Reebok,” and that he did. But many athletes—or “doctors” as Shaq proclaimed himself to be at the Rucker—have shoe deals, so people want to know why he followed suit. “I always wanted myself to be different.” Shaq continued, “When I was coming out, Reebok offered me the chance to have my own sneaker… So, luckily I just had that opportunity. The [Shaq Attaq] was different, [the Shaqnosis] is different and all the rest were different. There was always a stigma that big men couldn’t sell, and I always wanted to break that and in fact, I have broken that. I think kids look at me and…see a little bit of themselves in me. I always tell them, ‘Look, I’m from the same areas you’re from, doing the same things you do; I got tats, I got rims, I got earrings, I sag my pants,’ so I think I’m that portal from here to there. I think at the tender age of 41, that’s why I’m still around.”

While speaking to the significance of the Shaqnosis, and his relevancy to the kids, O’Neal couldn’t let the night go on without his inner analyst coming out and speaking on Dwight Howard’s recent decision to leave his beloved Lakers after just one year for the Houston Rockets. “When I went there [the Lakers]… Kareem and Will never talked to me,” he began to explain while speaking about his move to the Lakers in 1996. “I took it as, ‘Okay, you don’t know my name yet.’ That’s actually what I’m trying to do with Dwight. I’m trying to get Dwight in the ‘f*ck Shaq mode and let me step my game up,’ ’cause that’s what I did. I was averaging 30 points and they never said nothing to me. Dwight needs to learn how to use criticism as education. I’m not bashing him, I’m just trying to protect him ’cause if he does what I say do, nobody can say nothing.” Preach, Shaq!

 

Dropping on Friday, July 12th for $115 (also available in grade school sizes for $89.99), a limited number of Shaqnosis OG black/white pairs will be available at key retailers including Finish Line, Foot Locker, Jimmy Jazz, Shiekh, DTLR, Shoe Palace and on Reebok.com.