Last week, I caught up with Shaquille O’Neal at the official Reebok launch of the re-releases of his two greatest sneakers ever: the Shaq Attaq and the Shaqnosis. The Diesel was in a great mood, joking throughout the event. There was a big monitor running O’Neal highlights in the old sneakers, and at one point they were showing a photo of O’Neal dunking on Dennis Rodman in his trademark “legs in the air” power jam with his groin right in the Worm’s face. Swizz Beatz, the event’s MC, asked “Is Dennis Rodman ever gonna forgive you for that picture right there?” Shaq paused, then said, “Depends on if he likes them nuts or not.” Hilarious.
He was as excited as we all were, mainly because his first two signature sneakers with Reebok probably represented the pinnacle of his shoe game. They were ahead of their time and incredibly popular. And now, after 20 years, they’re finally coming back.
I got the chance to chat with O’Neal about the shoe, and as always, he had plenty to say.
*** *** ***
Dime: Obviously it’s been 20 years since the shoe first came out, but why now? Is that the particular reason for it or is it simply because they reached out?
Shaquille O’Neal: I wish we were smart enough to say re-release ’em. I think a lot of times, they â€“ they being the sneakerheads and the kids â€“ prompted them/us to do it because, like a lot of the big cities, they already have stores like this but they’re killing us with the prices. There’s a store in Melrose that my kids took me to, they’re selling $1500 for these retro joints.
Retros are hot and these kids these days, especially with all the technology, they want to be the first to tweet about them, the wanna be the first one with them. It’s good now, and then when they know you only have 80,000 pair coming out? Oh, it’s gonna be a madhouse trying to get them. Wow. And then being that I was a pretty good player back then and being that the shoes looked pretty good and I’m still hot right now, it’s gonna be a double madhouse.
So when Swizz reached out, I thought it was a good idea. I actually knew it was a good idea when I got my kids asking about it and then my kids trying to make money on the side because they have their friends asking him can they pay him extra to get a pair? I thought that was the cutest thing. You know how much it costs but the kids was gonna give them… because you know my kids and their friends are the same type of kids that they are, so it was like whatever they were gonna cost, they were gonna give my kids $200 extra just to get them first. It was the cutest little business hustle ever.
Dime: Does that feel weird that it’s been 20 years?
SO: It does. It feels weird. I’m blessed and I’m happy. I’m happy that Reebok reached out. I’m happy that Swizz reached out. It’s good. They still look good. My whole thought process when I was helping design them I wanted to create something that was futuristic. If you look at this cosmic blue, you know this shit wasn’t out in ’92. So when we first did them, there were a lot of people in the upstairs office that were like “Shit ain’t gonna sell.” A lot of times we had a lot of fights with them, but I had to try to get them to see in the future. But right now, we’re Shaq to the future. My vision is a reality.
Dime: I was actually about to ask you that. They were real futuristic when they came out. Did you know immediately that they would be like that?
SO: Yep. I made them get rid of all their old designers and get some new, young kids that could really draw and really wanted to take it out of this world. I wanted to create stuff that made people look. When you look, like me when I look at some shit, I go, “Ew” or “Wo.”
Wanted something that people couldn’t stop looking at â€“ to him, that’s what makes a memorable shoe, even if it’s something he wouldn’t like wearing. “Somebody gonna like those.”
Dime: The Shaqnosis didn’t have the Pump. Do you remember why they went away from that?
SO: I think at the time they were going away from the Pump or I was going after from the Pump. I didn’t like to have too much stuff on the shoe, and a lot of times we put “Shaqs” there and a lot of little stuff going on. We told them take the Pump off, and I allowed them to put the Reebok there and there, and just put myself on the tongue and on the back. A lot of little stuff going on.
Dime: For the Shaq Attaq, you had a commercial with you and all the old legends like Wilt, Kareem, Bill Walton. They were grading you out. Do you remember doing that?
SO: Yeah. I remember doing it because I wrote it. I remember in college, my marketing professor told me, “Big guys will never sell.” So I had to figure a way out to make people remember. For me, marketing is about getting people to react, so I knew if I got people to react then they would hopefully remember what the product was. I know if I bring in all the legends, all the old people would say, “Okay, who is this Shaq guy?” I know with myself, all the young people would look at me. So I had to bring all the old guys in, add some of that Terminator guru shit, throw something cool, a password, “don’t fake the funk on a nasty dunk.” I actually made that commercial up in about 10 minutes. I’ve always been good enough to see something and just make a commercial up about it right away. When I gave it to Reebok, they were very upset, “That shit’s gonna cost a million dollars.” I was like, “Well, we’re gonna have do it” because that’s how I wanted to come in. That’s how I wanted people to see me because I wanted to position myself like I’m gonna be the greatest big man ever. It was a risky move, but in my mind, that’s how I thought I was gonna be out. It worked.
Dime: The logo fits you so perfectly. How long did it take you to come up with that? Or how soon?
SO: I came up with that logo in high school. Jordan‘s logo was him dunking like that, and I was dunking like that in high school. So when I got to college, I was learning about trademarks and trademark infringements, so I went down to the Law Office and trademarked it in Louisiana and in the United States. I think it was $200. Then when I got big time, I trademarked it all over the world. When Reebok tried to get it from me, they couldn’t because I beat them to it. Bow! Smart guy!
Dime: Out of the Shaq Attaq and the Shaqnosis, which one do you like better?
SO: I like the Shaqnosis. The cosmic blue was good. It was cool. That was my first one. But the Shaqnosis was better. It took me like 30 minutes to name them. I was sitting there looking and I started getting dizzy, and I was thinking of the name. Shaqnosis, that was my favorite one.
Dime: Did you name both of them?
SO: Yeah, I named both of them. I named all of them.
Will you be getting the Shaq Attaq and Shaqnosis when they drop?
Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.