NBA Legend Shaquille O’Neal has been doing great charitable work for a few years now with Toys R Us for the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. The 2013 Toys for Tots campaign is currently underway and O’Neal, who is better known as “Shaq-A-Claus” this time of year started up a new tradition this year. It is called the “No Wish Too Big” campaign. Kids in need can wish for whatever they want as Toys R Us and Shaq try to fulfill those wishes.

If you want to help click here to go to the Toys for Tots website at Toys R Us.

Shaq and I were able to talk about his charitable work, his career in the NBA, and dancing.

Art Eddy: First off let’s talk about the great work you do with Toys R Us for the Toys for Tots program. You have done this for some time now. What inspired you to help out with this program?

Shaquille O’Neal: Well it is a great program that has been going on for a numerous amount of years. In 1992 my mother called me. She wanted to buy some kid toys. She was at a center that had about 500 children. I asked her what she was doing. She told me that these kids won’t be getting anything for Christmas because of their family situations.

I told her to have the kids write down about 10 items of what they want. She faxed me the list a couple hours later. Me and a couple of friends of mine went to Toys R Us and racked up a bunch of toys. That is how “Shaq-A-Claus” started.

I was contacted by Toys R Us about five years ago because they wanted to do that on a bigger scale. “Shaq-A-Claus” goes on in five states. It goes on in New Jersey and New York. We did it in Atlanta. We did it in Orlando. We are going to finish it off in L.A.

Toys R Us has always been my favorite store. My favorite song has always been (starts to sing) I don’t want to grow up. I am a Toys R Us kid. I love Geoffrey the Giraffe. Toys R Us is a great organization. They do great things. They showed me some alarming stats. I think 10 to 20 million kids will wake up on Christmas and not receive anything. With the help of Toys for Tots, people giving monetary donations and giving toy donations I think we can cut down that number.

AE: How can people help you guys out with this great cause?

SO: You can go to Toys R Us dot com slash Toys for Tots. You can donate at your local Toys R Us or Babies R Us. You will see a big ol’ box there. You can donate money, gift cards, and toys and we will get them out.

AE: Talk about the “No Wish Is Too Big” campaign for this year.

SO: Whatever you want just holler at Shaq and Toys R Us and we will try and make it happen. This year a lot of kids want XBOX’s and all those things. I am putting out a call to all my friends and family. Bikes, iPods, iPads, Monster headphones, Shaq shoes and other stuff to try and do our best to make these kids happy.

I was one of those kids that didn’t get a lot for Christmas. There was one toy that changed my life. It created the Shaquille O’Neal brand. It was a Dr. J. autographed basketball.

AE: I remember you saying that before in an interview. It is great to have that story about a toy that stands the test of time for you. To me that is exactly what you are doing with Toys R Us for this program. These toys will create a memory for them just like the Dr. J. basketball did for you. You guys are doing such a wonderful campaign.

SO: Thank you. Imagine seeing a kid wake up on Christmas and opening up gifts and saying thank you to their mom and their dad. Christmas should be joyous time for everyone.

AE: Moving to basketball do you have one moment or season in your great career that stands out the most? Or do all of the seasons in your outstanding career mesh together for you?

SO: Everything is kind of pushed together. I am happy for the four titles. The only thing that is disappointing is that I missed over 200 games due to injury. I averaged about 25 points a game. That is about another 5,000 points that could have been added to my career. Then that would have put me at number two in scoring. Then of course I missed 10,000 free throws. If I made half those that would have brought up closer to Kareem.

There is always the talk about who is the best big man. Who is the most dominant? I think accolades and stats will never lie. I really wanted to pass Wilt Chamberlain in points so I could woefully and modestly brag to say I was the most dominant big man ever. I think I am 1,800 behind Wilt.

AE: One thing that I loved about watching you play was that you looked like you were having fun. You still were focused and I know that the NBA is a player’s livelihood, but do you feel that some players might take the game too seriously?

SO: I don’t want to speak for other players, but economically you have to understand that dads and moms pay a lot of money for these seats. I was like okay if you are going to pay this much money to watch me play I am going to put on a Broadway type of performance for you. That is why I did what I did. I wanted to play hard. I wanted to smile at little kids and throw them wristbands.

If you can just make one person happy or change their life or make the whole arena happy than I think that you are doing your job. We make a lot of money and they charge a lot of money. My job was to always put on a good show. If a dad is going to pay $200 to have him and son watch Shaq, Kobe, and the Lakers play up against the Miami Heat, I have to give them a good show.

You never want to have someone say ‘Oh my God. Why did I pay for these tickets? This game was awful.’ So my job was to put on a great show for them.

AE: Was your first NBA title the sweetest?

SO: Yes. The first one was the sweetest. I had accomplished a lot before I got there. There were critics out there that would say he is not concentrating. He is doing this. He is doing that. He will never win a championship. Then to have the rite of passage to being considered one of the greatest is nice to have on your resume.

AE: I would love to finish our chat with a quick round of about four questions. Is that cool with you?

SO: Yeah!

AE: What is your favorite shoe from your line?

SO: The Shaq Ones.

AE: What is your favorite nickname that you had during your playing days?

SO: My favorite nickname is “Diesel.” I am like an 18 wheeler with no brakes coming down the hill onto oncoming traffic.

AE: Where was your favorite place to play in the NBA?

SO: Favorite place to play was Miami. It was always sunny and my joints were feeling nice.

AE: I loved your dance routine with Jabbawockeez during the NBA All-Star Game. How long did you prep for that?

SO: I didn’t prep for that. It took me two minutes because when I was young I was already a break dancer.

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