At 7-foot-1 and one of the best centers in NBA history, the Hall of Fame superstar known worldwide as Shaq isn’t used to rejection.
Yet when Shaquille O’Neal, 50, offered to completely remodel his beloved Uncle Roy’s house in Orlando, Florida for CBS’s “Secret Celebrity Renovation,” the selfless “real uncle” who housed the family from O’Neal in 1992 when the rookie was drafted by the Orlando Magic, he politely declined.
“When I asked him at first, he said no. I had to find my mom, the older sister,” says O’Neal. “She talked to him and made him do it.”
Everybody wins as the CBS rehab reality show continues into its second season and airs Friday (8 pm EDT/PDT). The larger-than-life O’Neal opened up about what he promises will be “the best celebrity makeover ever” airing in September.
‘I know I was wrong’:Shaquille O’Neal opens up about his 2011 divorce
Question: We’re sure this will be the best makeover show of all time, but why?
Shaq: I watch some renewal shows and when I see the reveal, that’s not a renewal. I don’t know if there is a word above luxury, but that is exactly what this renovation is. Like your stove, refrigerator, and wood trim, I don’t have them in any of my mansions. This was something else.
Q: Why was your Uncle Roy the perfect choice for this honor?
Shaq: I am a very generous family man. But if I call him and say ‘Uncle Roy, I have a million, do you want $100,000?’ he will always say ‘No, you work hard for that’. He has never asked me for anything in all my time, not money for a flight or a business, nothing.
Q: During the emotional reveal of ‘Renewal,’ will we see tears from you or from Uncle Roy?
Shaq: We were not allowed to share emotions by shedding tears growing up. We share emotions just by giving a hug and saying “thank you”.
Q: Legendary Boston center Bill Russell died this week, what kind of inspiration was he to you?
Shaq: I grew up knowing that Bill Russell was a great man. But I didn’t know until I talked to him how great it was. He couldn’t stay in the same hotels as his (white) classmates, people wrote harsh words to him. Back then, he never made the kind of money I make, but he never complained. These conversations taught me to be mentally tough, to never complain, and not to be a cry baby with everything at my disposal.
Q: In 2021, you promised to buy Russell’s championship rings at auction, right?
Shaq: No. I was too late. I didn’t want to go through the auction process. He wanted to find out who was in charge and make an offer you can’t refuse and buy everything. But they kept putting me through this auction process and by the time the (auction catalog) arrived, and I chose my item numbers, it was a day too late. Boy, was I (angry).
Q: Your former “Inside the NBA” colleague, Charles Barkley, seriously considered a lucrative, exclusive endorsement deal with the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf series. Did you try to dissuade him?
Shaq: No. Charles is a dear friend. He would have supported him in every way. Charles is one of those legends, like Bill Russell, who didn’t make a lot of money playing. So if an opportunity like this arises at this age that is legal, controversial but legal, you should look at it. If he had accepted it, he wouldn’t be angry. What if Charles was gone? You’d still have me
Plus:‘Winning Time’, the casting magic of HBO’s Los Angles Lakers
Q: You have criticized HBO’s “Winning Time” for an exaggerated portrayal of former Los Angeles Lakers star and general manager Jerry West. Any other criticism of the series?
Shaq: This was before my time, but that portrayal of Jerry West was despicable. He is not that guy. Jerry West was a great general manager, he always did the right thing for me. All the other stuff that I thought was cool. As a fan and someone who watches TV, the cinematography and action were great. It is very well shot. But not the way they treated Mr. West.
Q: You danced to “Maniac,” the song with Jennifer Beals from “Flashdance,” on 2016’s “Lip Sync Battle” and just posted an immortal new version online. What about the obsession?
Shaq: When I was young, I wanted to be Leroy on the TV show “Fame.” I started dancing “Fame” style, and it helped me become a great basketball player. You need rhythm on the court and dancing makes you more athletic.
So this is a true story, years later I’m sitting next to this woman on a plane and I swear it’s from “Flashdance”. My God, she was so beautiful. She wanted to flirt, but she didn’t want to start with that “Flashdance” question. We landed and found ourselves back in the luggage. So I introduced myself and asked her if she was in “Flashdance”. She was Jennifer Beals. She was one of the first superstars I met. And she was so nice. That’s why I love her.