Shaq Walked Away From A $40M Reebok Deal After A Mother Berated Him Because His Shoes Weren’t ‘Affordable’

Shaquille O’Neal is a big guy, measuring over seven feet and weighing over 300 pounds. Grounding his massive frame are size 22 feet.

The former basketball player had a lucrative deal with Reebok—a cool $40 million—for his own line of footwear. But seven years into the deal, in 1999, he went in a different direction after an encounter with a mother who asked why his sneakers weren’t more affordable and accessible to his young fans. 

According to The Sports Rush, after deciding to walk away from Reebok, Shaq made a deal with Walmart to create Shaq Shoes, an affordable line that sold over 350 million pairs. Fast-forward 20 years later to 2019, when the TNT announcer partnered with the footwear company TOMS after learning of its business model: that for every pair bought, one pair was donated.

Shaq spent two years searching for the company to get a pair for himself and eventually met its owner, Blake Mycoskie, in Los Angeles. Upon meeting Mycoskie, Shaq asked how he could get a pair of TOMS in his size.

After explaining to Shaq that TOMS didn’t make size 22s and it wouldn’t make sense to make one pair, Shaq asked how many pairs were made in one production day and then placed an order.

He said, “Finally, about two years later, I see the owner of TOMS. Him and his wife we met at Westwood. I said, ‘Listen I love your product, how can I get a pair?’ and he said, ‘Shaq, to be honest with you we don’t have the 22 molds. I can’t slow production down to make one shoe!’ So I said, ‘Well… what’s a good production day?’ And he said, ‘About a thousand pairs,’ so I said, ‘Make me a thousand pairs, then!’ So … I got a thousand pairs that I ordered, and I’m only into my first hundred. And we’re in discussions … we want to go to these third-world countries and hand out some shoes.”

The money Shaq would have made with Reebok doesn’t match the generosity he has shown the many people who can now afford his sneakers, and those in poorer countries who will receive shoes from him.