Interview: Shaquille O’Neal and Reebok, A Colossal Force of 1990s Hoops
How does one introduce the backboard-shattering Shaquille O’Neal? A Herculean force both on and off the NBA hardwood, O’Neal and his Reebok signature series were pivotal in shaping sneaker culture during the action-packed 1990s.
Four rings, rap albums and $400 million later, Shaq Diesel is still a titan to be reckoned with. We hooked up with the legendary centre to chat all things sneaker culture after his sojourn Down Under.
You signed with Reebok in 1992 as a kid. What was your view of the brand back then?
It’s crazy to think it’s been 20 years since I signed my first deal with Reebok. I’ve always loved standing out and I knew that Reebok would be the best brand to do that with. I remember walking into a meeting with Nike, wearing my Reebok jacket, and I officially signed with Reebok as soon as I left. Nike had one of the best players in the world in Michael Jordan, and that day Reebok got one, too.
How involved were you with designs like the classic Shaqnosis and Shaq Attaq?
My first signature shoe was the Shaq Attaq, designed by the legend Judy Close. That shoe was created in four months so there wasn’t as much back and forth as you see in the signature shoe business today. We sampled it in a size 9 and a size 20 so that the design details would stay intact with the bigger shoe, and it was amazing to see my name and logo on shoes that kids around the country were wearing. The Shaqnosis was designed by Jonathan Morris, and he came to me with a shoe that was pretty much ready to go – we just had to make sure that the shoe he designed could be scaled to my size.
What was the view of your shoes around the league in the 90s?
The shoes were an instant classic. They became so recognisable that the style even started to spread to other sports and really stood out on the court.
Is it cool to see Reebok’s 1990s catalogue surge again in 2022? What are some of your other favourite Reebok shoes?
It’s fun to see styles from the 90s trending today. I love the Shaqnosis because that shoe is truly one of a kind, but if I had to choose someone else’s it would have to be Allen Iverson’s.
Who would you love to see collaborate on the Shaqnosis?
Dee Brown was holding it down for Reebok a few years before I got in the league and now his daughter, Lexie, has partnered with Reebok and wears them on the court in the WNBA – so it’d be cool to collaborate with her.
What’s your view of the sneaker industry in 2022?
It’s crazy to see the evolution of the sneaker industry, but one thing that has remained is the sense of community. Sneaker culture is really what is at the heart of the industry. Now we see that all the classics are coming back and are in more demand than ever because people want to be a part of what we had back in the day.
Who’s got the hottest sneaker game on Inside the NBA?
If it’s not me, I have to give it to Ernie.
How much longer do we have to wait for Kazaam 2?
Never say never.