By Jenna Lemoncelli, NY Post
Don’t call Shaquille O’Neal a “celebrity.”
Although the Lakers legend has a stacked NBA resume and booming broadcast career (including countless commercials and brand deals), O’Neal wants to be remembered for his kindness before anything else.
“These celebrities are going freaking crazy and I don’t want to be one. I denounce my celebrity-ness today. I’m done with it,” O’Neal told The Post, while discussing his new campaign with Kellogg’s.
“I don’t want to be in that category. Celebrities are crazy, they really are. Don’t call me that anymore. These people are out of their freaking mind with how they treat people, what they do, what they say. That’s never been me. I never want to be looked at like that.”
The four-time champion has found a different way into the spotlight with his random acts of kindness, which he said he tries to do at least twice per week.
Since retiring from the NBA in 2011, he’s become known for helping others with grand gestures that have included paying for a stranger’s engagement ring — and more recently, funding one of his favorite Atlanta restaurants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All my life, everyone probably gets stereotyped, but us celebrities, we get stereotyped because most of these celebrities are out of their mind. I don’t do that. I’m a regular person that listened, followed his dreams and made it,” he said.
It’s easy to hone in on O’Neal’s life from the start of his NBA career to the present day, but things were much different before the 1992 NBA Draft — when the 7-foot-1 LSU product was selected first overall by the Orlando Magic.
O’Neal grew up poor in Newark, New Jersey, and has credited the Boys & Girls Club of America for helping to keep him off the streets and out of trouble.
“I came from nothing,” he said. “But, just because I made it doesn’t mean I’m bigger than you, smarter than you — just because I have more money doesn’t mean I’m better than you. I’ve never been that way and I never will be that way. So I don’t want to be in that category of people.
“When they talk about Shaq, what do you say? ‘He’s a nice guy.’ Because what else can you be? You’re either nice or you’re the A-word, and I definitely won’t be looked at as the A-word,” he said.
“I want people to say, ‘Bro, he’s nice. He didn’t have an entourage. His people didn’t take my phone because I took a picture and threw it.’”
Another good deed O’Neal is focused on, is helping kids play sports.
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