Shaquille O’Neal Explains Why He Rejected Nike Shoe Endorsement: ‘I Wasn’t Interested In Being Another Guy On The Shelf’

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Before he started appearing in all your House TV commercials, Shaquille O’Neal was a hugely successful NBA star. Arguably one of the greatest centers of all time, in fact.

Endorsements pleased O’Neal during and after his playing career, including a shoe deal. O’Neal was a contender for an endorsement deal with Oregon-based sneaker giant Nike. When the Hall of Fame center was drafted, however, he snubbed Nike and signed a deal with less popular Reebok. What is the story behind this decision?

In a new episode on Complex’s “Sneaker Shopping” hosted by Joe La Puma, O’Neal went into detail about 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 that O’Neal recently explained about how his negotiations with Nike went down. In September, the former Los Angeles Lakers star revealed he deliberately called off 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 going out with a bang. You know, my motto was for people to remember my name. And instead of proving myself first, I wanted to get my name known first to improve later.

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 09: View of Shaquille O’Neal’s Reebok Classic Shaqnosis Sneaker as Shaquille O’Neal drives the MMG team 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 reunion.

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 shoe line, the Dunkman.

Shaq’s line of Dunkman-brand shoes resembled 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 this.”

O’Neal continued: “A lot of people say ‘he copies’ – I didn’t design this. They designed it, they approved it, they let it happen and it got hot. Nike owned the Shaq brand at one point but they didn’t care, they didn’t want anything to do with it and so they gave it back to me and I’ve grown it to 600 million pairs sold since.

Shaq ended up buying a shipment of Reebok and Adidas children’s shoes from a boys and girls club he invited to A Ma Manier in Atlanta for the taping of the show. He spent $947 on nine pairs of shoes and accessories. He might actually be the first person in Complex history to join the show and not buy a single pair of shoes.

Watch the full video below:

–Aron Yohannes

[email protected]; @aronyohannes

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