At 7-foot-1 and one of the NBA’s greatest centers ever, the Hall of Fame superstar known worldwide asShaq is not used to rejection.
Yet, when Shaquille O’Neal, 50, offered to completely remodel the Orlando, Fla., home of his beloved Uncle Roy for CBS’s “Secret Celebrity Renovation,” the selfless “true uncle,” who housed O’Neal’s family in 1992 when the rookie was drafted to the Orlando Magic, politely declined.
“When I asked him at first, he said ‘no.’ I had to get my mom, the oldest sibling,” O’Neal says. “She talked to him and made him do it.”
Everyone wins as CBS’ reality rehab show continues its second season, airing Friday (8 pm EDT/PDT). The larger-than-life O’Neal discussed what he vows will be “the best celebrity renovation ever” airing in September.
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Question: We’re sure this is going to be the Best Renovation Show Ever, but why?
shaq: I watch some renovation shows and when I see the reveal, that’s no renovation. I don’t know if there’s a word above luxury, but that’s exactly what this renovation is. Like his stove, refrigerator and wood trimmings, I don’t have those in any of my mansions. This was something else.
Q: Why was your Uncle Roy the slam dunk choice for this honor?
shaq: I’m a very gifting family guy. But if I call him and say ‘Uncle Roy, I’ve got a million, do you want $100,000?’ he’ll always say ‘No, you work hard for that.’ He has never asked for anything in all my time, not money for a flight or a business deal, nothing.
Q: During the emotional ‘Renovation’ reveal, will we see tears from you or 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: Boston legendary center Bill Russell died this week, what kind of inspiration was he to you?
shaq: I grew up knowing Bill Russell was a great man. But I didn’t know until I talked to him how great. He couldn’t stay in the same hotels as his (white) teammates, people would write him harsh words. Back then, he never made the kind of money I make, but never complained. These conversations taught me to be mentally strong, never to complain and to not be a cry baby with everything at my disposal.
Q: In 2021, you vowed to buy Russell’s championship rings at auction, did you?
shaq: no. I was too late. I didn’t want to go through the auction process. I wanted to find out who was in charge and make an offer you can’t refuse and buy everything. But they kept making me go through this auction process and by the time the (auction catalog) came, and I picked my item numbers it was a day too late. Boy, was I (angry).
Q: Your longtime “Inside the NBA” colleague Charles Barkley seriously mulled a lucrative, exclusive announcing contract with the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf series. Did you try to talk him out of it?
shaq: no. Charles is a dear friend. I would’ve supported him every which way. Charles is one of those legends, like Bill Russell, that didn’t make a lot of money playing. So if a chance comes up like this at this age that’s legal – controversial but legal – you gotta look at it. If he had accepted it, I wouldn’t be mad. And if Charles had left? You’d still have me.
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Q: You’ve criticized HBO’s “Winning Time” for an exaggerated depiction of Los Angeles Lakers former star and general manager Jerry West. Any other show critiques?
shaqi: This was before my time, but that description of Jerry West was despicable. He’s not that guy. Jerry West was a fine general manager, always did right by me. All the other stuff I thought was cool. As a fan, and someone who watches TV, the cinematography and action were great. It’s shot very well. But not the way they treated West.
Q: You danced to “Maniac,” the song featuring Jennifer Beals from “Flashdance,” on 2016’s “Lip Sync Battle” and you just posted a new, immortal version online. What’s with the obsession?
shaq: As a youngster, I wanted to be Leroy on TV’s “Fame.” I started dancing in the “Fame” style, and it helped me to become a great basketball player. You need rhythm on the court and dancing makes you more athletic.
Then, this is a true story, years later I’m sitting next to this woman on a plane and I swear she’s from “Flashdance.” My God, she was so beautiful. I wanted to flirt, but I didn’t want to lead with that “Flashdance” question. We land and meet again at baggage. So I introduced myself and asked if she was in “Flashdance.” It was Jennifer Beals. She was one of the first superstars I ever met. And she was so nice. That’s why I love her.