Shaquille O’Neal is set to enter the Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 9 following an illustrious career that saw four NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat. His legacy as a ballplayer leaves him on the pantheon of the game’s greatest big men, but his legacy off the court is aided by his business savvy as much as it is by his personality and his ability to apply new nicknames to himself with ease.
O’Neal was a phenomenal player when he had a chip on his shoulder, and similarly, learned how to create his own brand when he was told, “big men can’t sell shoes.”
At a Reebok event in 2013, O’Neal told the story about how a marketing professor at LSU told him he would struggle to move sneakers.
“I remember being in a marketing class one day and my professor said to me, ‘Big men can’t sell,” O’Neal began. “I was so [expletive] pissed, I almost got out of the class.”
Despite wanting to drop the class, O’Neal decided to stay and ended up learning what it would take for him to become successful with all of his endorsement deals after he left school. Before he left school, he trademarked his dunk — the ubiquitous Dunkman logo that peaked in the early ‘90s — and entered the NBA with a logo he could take everywhere he went instead of having a logo that a huge brand owned, à la Michael Jordan’s Jumpman logo.
“I knew I was good, I thought I was going to be great, and it was my job and my people’s job to convince [brands] that I was going to be great and convince them to want to sell the product,” O’Neal said. “The hard thing to do was make them believe in it, because no big guy in the history of marketing from the game [of basketball] has ever sold anything.”
O’Neal said that he got the idea to trademark his dunk because of the Jordan Brand logo, but his is a logo that now lives on its own because he was able to prove that, with the right personality and drive, even big men can sell sneakers.