Shaquille O’Neal says his “best” business story is the time he walked away from a $40 million Reebok sneaker deal.
While on the “Full Send” podcast on Thursday, the four-time NBA champion recalled cutting ties with the brand he repped throughout his playing career after “a lady ripped me a new a–hole while leaving the arena one day.”
O’Neal said the woman called him a “motherf–ker” for charging young kids so much money for shoes.
“I had $2,000 in my pocket. I said, ‘Lady I don’t make the prices. Here you go, and she smacked the money out of my hand, [and said], ‘Why don’t you motherf–kers make a shoe that’s affordable?’”
The scolding was a moment of realization for O’Neal, who decided to turn down his $40 million, 5-year deal with Reebok.
“I was like, ‘You know what, she’s right.’ So that day, I cut ties with Reebok and started my own brand,” he recalled. “I said keep the money… this ain’t right. I’ll still wear the shoes I wear during the season, but I’ll be looking to do my own thing. So, I started the Shaq brand.
“I went to my favorite store, Walmart, and we did a deal. I was in all stores and my price point for the shoes was $29-$19 and since then we sold over 400 million pairs. It’s not kids that don’t want to wear $20 shoes, they don’t want to wear shoes that look like they cost $20.”
There was no bad blood between O’Neal and Reebok after he turned them down. He said he brought along designers from Reebok with him to join his Walmart deal.
O’Neal’s relationship with Reebok began in 1992, when he signed a $15 million multi-year deal with the brand. He went on to launch his popular Reebok Shaq Attaq and Shaqnosis shoes — and sported Reebok throughout his entire NBA career.
Earlier this year, O’Neal was part of a mega deal with Reebok, after the brand’s sale to Authentic Brands Group (ABG), in which he has owned shares in since 2015.