These are some big shoes to fill — especially at a time when so many celebrities use their fame, their fortunes and their platforms to make divisive political statements or take divisive political stands.
Instead, one star is standing out for the right reasons.
Back when former NBA superstar Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal was 18 years old and trying to get himself to a school prom, his dad “asked around to find a pair of size 18 penny loafers,” as CNN reported on Friday.
In other words — Shaq was shoeless back then.
And up stepped Bruce Teilhaber, who owned Friedman’s Shoes in Atlanta, Georgia, to address the problem. He gave the young O’Neal a free pair of shoes.
And O’Neal, who eventually grew to wear a size 22, has been buying shoes from him ever since that day.
O’Neal, born in Newark, New Jersey, is today a sports analyst on “Inside the NBA” on TNT. He’s widely considered one of the best players in National Basketball Association history. He is also a DJ today (you can read more about Shaq here.)
The basketball icon played from 1992 to 2011. He played for six different teams during his distinguished career.
Throughout that career, however, O’Neal never forgot the generosity of that businessman — and now it turns out O’Neal has helped a teenager who was in the same situation Shaq himself was all those years ago.
Zach Keith, an Atlanta teen, is 13, plays basketball, and wears a size 18.
“With that specialty size, it’s tough for his mother, Brittany, to afford shoes for her growing son. So, when CNN affiliate WGCL reached out to O’Neal to ask for help, he didn’t hesitate,” as CNN noted.
CNN: When Shaquille O'Neal was 18 and trying to get to the prom, a shoe store owner gave him a free pair of size 18 loafers. So when a 13-year-old boy who also wears a size 18 needed shoes, O'Neal didn't hesitate. https://t.co/tDsAgta5eP
— clevelanddotcom (@clevelanddotcom) May 10, 2019
SHAQ GIVES BACK – When a single mom posted to Instagram that she couldn't afford size 18 shoes for her 13-year-old son, NBA star Shaquille O'Neal took notice and surprised the teen with 10 pairs of shoes 👏 https://t.co/u1fd0rJmSA
— WSVN 7 News (@wsvn) May 10, 2019
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) May 9, 2019
"The day I stopped worrying about stats is the day I started winning" – Shaquille O'Neal. One of my favorite quotes
— Joey (@ItsJoey_M) May 10, 2019
O’Neal and WGCL’s Sharon Reed surprised the boy and his family at Friedman’s — O’Neal bought the kid 10 pairs of shoes.
“This will help a lot,” Brittany Keith told CNN. “I won’t so much have to worry about buying him dress shoes. He hasn’t had a pair of dress shoes in about four or five years because it’s been hard trying to find the ones that actually fit.”
“And for me it was just, it was very touching, very heartfelt and to know that there’s somebody out there that has his back,” she also said.
Shaq, for his part, said the situation reminded him of his own background and plight.
“Bruce did it for me, and I just want to return the favor,” he told CNN.
“Mom couldn’t afford shoes,” he also told WGCL-TV. “The kid had big feet and I just kind of reminisced back [about] how that used to be [the situation for] me, my mom and my dad.”
The teenager, Zach Keith, admitted he was starstruck, by the way. “I’m like, ‘Whoa, he wants to buy me shoes, out of all people?'” he told WGCL.