All-Star basketball player and reportedly all-around nice guy Shaquille O’Neal went viral after news of him allegedly dropping five figures on dinner for all in a restaurant was leaked to the press. While the former Laker did drop an extraordinary tip on the waiter at a swanky New York City restaurant, he did not do the grand gesture of picking up the whole tab.
Many are celebrating the four-time champion for his generosity, claiming on Sunday, June 19, he dropped $25,000 to pay for the entire restaurant’s tab for a dinner at Manhattan’s Jue Lan Club. However, on a recent episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq,” he clarified he didn’t spend that amount — that he gave a tip that was 10 times less than the amount in the headlines.
O’Neal, an athlete with one of the most diverse and successful financial portfolios in professional sports, said of the tip, “It wasn’t $25,000. I love viral moments, but it was $2,500.”
He explained, “Always give the waiters big tips because I appreciate them. I always ask them and give them the ability to tell me what they want. I asked them, ‘What do you want? Biggest tip you’ve ever had.’ “
One might ask why would he do that? For O’Neal, the answer is simple: “Because I want them to remember me. I always want to leave the impression that I am a nice guy. I am not going to take credit for the $25,000. It was a great viral moment, but it was $2,500.”
With an estimated net worth of $400 million, the New Jersey native not only boasts of having a reputation of being charitable, but one of being a shrewd businessman.
Outside of sports and entertainment, because he has conquered the NBA — both as an athlete and a personality — motion pictures, music, as both a rapper and DJ, and as an executive producer, he has made millions through his exploration of the world of franchising.
According to Franchise 500, he has owned and sold 155 Five Guys Burger restaurants, an investment in food that makes up 10 percent of his company’s entire franchise portfolio. In addition to the burger joints, he owns 17 Auntie Anne’s Pretzels units and nine Papa John’s pizzerias. He has recently invested in the popular donut bakery brand Krispy Kreme.
O’Neal founded a food brand in 2018 called Big Chicken in Las Vegas, and has opened 10 locations to sell the chicken sandwiches. Through several partnerships, the 7’1″ former center has expanded the reach of the brand to include some Ghost Kitchens brands in Toronto and a few Carnival Cruise ships.
This does not even touch his real estate ventures, where he recently fronted an $80 million apartment complex in New Jersey and has his sights on building another $150 million high rise in the future.
To balance his businesses, O’Neal believes in giving back, saying he does at least two good deeds every week. Tipping is just one way he does that. Another recent act of kindness was when he donated his hefty deejaying check to those impacted by the mass shooting at the Tops Friendly Markets in Buffalo, New York.
He also has created the Shaquille O’Neal Foundation, a nonprofit that has the mission to enhance the lives of young people in Atlanta and Las Vegas.
When asked why he launched the foundation, he said in a Forbes interview that it was “time to create something to build a brighter future for children and motivate helping kids. Our mission is just to help underserved youth by providing them with resources, and opportunities.”
He added, “You know, a lot of people, especially our kids, our children, don’t have that. These kids need somebody to look up to. They need stuff to do. And we want to provide that.”
Kids are not the only ones looking up to the gentle or generous giant. So are adults — those who don’t expect to receive a helping hand, like the waiter in New York.
Just ask the guy from Zale’s who was shopping for an engagement ring for his lady in 2021. While he was asking about the damage the ring was going to cost him, Shaq stepped in without a word and paid for the jewelry.
While it wasn’t a big thing to O’Neal, it was to a bystander who captured it on a cell phone and gave Shaq yet another viral moment. His TNT co-hosts asked him about his kind gesture and questioned him about being in Zale’s and his reason was classic. He has a jewelry line there.
It seems for the 1992 NBA Draft pick, making money and giving it away go hand-in-hand.