Shaquille O’Neal explains why he rejected Nike shoe endorsement: ‘I wasn’t interested in being another guy on the shelf’

Before he started appearing on every TV commercial in your home, Shaquille O’Neal was an extremely successful star in the NBA. Arguably one of the greatest centers of all-time, in fact.

The endorsements rained in for O’Neal during and following his playing career, including a shoe deal. O’Neal was a candidate for an endorsement deal with Nike, the sneaker giant based in Oregon state. When the Hall of Fame center was drafted, though, he snubbed Nike and signed a deal with less-popular Reebok. What’s the story behind that decision?

In a new episode on Complex’s “Sneaker Shopping” hosted by Joe La Puma, O’Neal explained the specifics of why he rejected Nike’s offer. It’s pretty clear.

“When I got drafted, they gave me the opportunity to have my own shoe — Reebok,” O’Neal said. “Nike was interested, but they didn’t want me to have my own shoe.”

There’s a legendary story O’Neal recently explained about how his negotiations with Nike went. In September, the former Los Angeles Lakers star revealed he purposely tanked his meeting with the company by wearing Rebook apparel in front of Nike executives.

“Yeah, because I knew at the time that I wasn’t interested in being another guy on the shelf,” he explained, “I wanted to have my own line, my own shoe. I wanted to come out with a bang. You know, my motto was making people remember my name. And instead of proving myself first, I wanted to have my name out there first to improve myself later.”

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 09: View of Shaquille O’Neal’s Reebok Classic Shaqnosis Sneaker as Shaquille O’Neal guest coaches Team MMG at Rucker Park on July 9, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Jerritt Clark/Getty Images)Getty Images

O’Neal said his plan was to use the meeting with Nike as leverage to receive more money on his endorsement deal with Rebook. Rebook ended up giving him an extra million dollars after the bombed meeting.

O’Neal’s deal with Rebook eventually ended because he wanted to change the prices of his shoes to make them more affordable for customers — a lady literally complained and asked him to make them more affordable and he took the comment to heart. He would go on to create his own signature line of shoes, the Dunkman.

The line of shoes from Shaq’s Dunkman brand resembled similar looks to shoes from Nike and Jordan. However, O’Neal revealed that Nike actually owned the brand at one point and that’s why the looks were similar, not because of his personal interests.

“A lot of people don’t know that,” O’Neal said. “If they didn’t own me I wouldn’t be able to do that.”

O’Neal continued, “A lot of people say ‘he’s copying’ — I didn’t design that. They designed that, they approved it, they let it go and it got to be hot. Nike owned the Shaq brand at one time but they didn’t pay it any attention, they didn’t want anything to do with it and so they gave it back to me and I grew it to 600 million pairs sold since then.”

Shaq ended up buying a boatload of Reebok and Adidas shoes for kids from a Boys & Girls Club he invited to the A Ma Manier in Atlanta for the show recording. He spent $947 on nine pairs of shoes along with accessories. He might actually be the first person in Complex’s history to join the show and not buy a single pair of shoes for himself.

Watch the full video below:

— Aron Yohannes

[email protected]; @aronyohannes

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