Shaquille O’Neal’s signature sneaker brand gained particular recognition through his collaboration with Reebok in 1992. This partnership resulted in a groundbreaking deal worth $40 million over five years for his inaugural signature sneaker, the Shaq Attaq 1. The shoe, adorned with the iconic Orlando colorway, showcased Reebok’s innovative Pump technology.
The Shaq Attaq 1 was the first shoe to use a carbon fiber plate, not the Air Jordan 11.
However, one might be surprised to know that he declined to continue the deal in 1999, leaving behind $40 million during the beginning of his prime Lakers tenure, to pursue a mission to make more affordable shoes. In the process, he made back more than his supposed expansion.
“I cut ties with Reebok. I said keep the money. This ain’t right. I’ll still wear the shoes I do during the season, but I’ll be looking to do my own thing,” Shaq in an interview with “Full Send” podcast in 2021. “So, I started the Shaq brand. I went to my favorite store, Walmart, and we did a deal. I was in all stores and my price point for the shoes was $29-$19 and since then we sold over 400 million pairs.”
He also revealed that he hired Reebok designers to work with him on the new Walmart venture, saying that, “It’s not kids that don’t want to wear $20 shoes, they don’t want to wear shoes that look like they cost $20.”
Shaq began selling Shaq brand sneakers at Walmart, and he sold “over 120 million pairs of affordable shoes for kids” in 2016, he told the podcast hosts. As of now, those estimates have grown to 350 million.
It was a risky move that would pay off in the long run. Shaq was able to reorganize and keep his brand alive despite parting ties with Reebok. By 2000, the Shaq brand had become large enough to necessitate a spinoff.
Shaq’s Next Move After Reebok
Shaq founded Dunk.net in collaboration with his old agent Leonardo Amato, but the enterprise did not proceed as anticipated, in part due to the impact from the dot-com bubble’s demise. Shaq and company are reported to have lost $20 million.
Shaq launched a second shoe brand, Shaq’s Dunkman, in 2001, which fared well with collaborations with Payless and Sketchers in the United States in 2004.
Shaq struck a 5-year deal with Chinese sportswear behemoth Li-ning in 2006, resulting in a line of limited edition shoes using the Dunkman brand, paradoxically making the Dunkman emblem a prestige symbol among Chinese customers.
His collaboration with the Chinese shoe company Li-Ning and the decision to part ways with Reebok was based on the following reasons: He wanted to establish his own brand identity, he saw an opportunity to increase his earnings by partnering with a different company or starting his brand. He reportedly felt that his goals and vision were not aligning with Reebok at that time, and that his partnership with Li-Ning allowed him to tap into the growing market in China, a basketball-crazy country.
However, another key reason he departed Reebok was an interaction with an irate mother in 1995. The woman inquired as to why his signature shoes, the Shaq Attaqs and the Shaqnosis, were so pricey.
“One day, I’m walking out the Orlando arena, and this lady cursing me out you mother f’ers, y’all be charging our babies all this money for the shoe, and I was young in the business, I was like, ma’am, I don’t make the price, but here you go, I got $2,000 here buy whatever you want… she smacked the money on my a– and she said, somebody need to make an affordable shoe, so then I said you know what she’s right, ‘cuz I remember coming up I would never go into home and ask my dad hey can I borrow a hundred dollars and buy some shoes either, he’d look at me think I was crazy, ” Shaq said to “Full Send.”
The Shaq Inspiration
Shaq, a four-time NBA champion whose net worth is estimated at $400 million, is said to be inspired by TOMS, a footwear company founded by Blake Mycoskie in 2006 that is known for its “One for One” model, which means that for every pair of shoes sold TOMS donates a pair of shoes to a child in need.
Shaq became familiar with TOMS shoes in 2019 and purchased 1000 pairs of size 22 TOMS shoes because he liked the company’s ideals, such as offering shoes at affordable prices. He explained how that led him to make a deal with the brand that is leaving an outsized footprint.
“Finally, about two years later I see the owner of TOMS,” Shaq said last year in an interview on “The Jordan Harbinger Show.” Him and his wife we met at Westwood. I said, ‘Listen I love your product, how can I get a pair?’ and he said, ‘Shaq to be honest with you we don’t have the 22 molds. I can’t slow production down to make one shoe!’ So I said, ‘Well…what’s a good production day?’ And he said, ‘About a 1000 pairs,’ so I said, ‘Make me a 1000 pairs then!’ So… I got a 1000 pairs that I ordered and I’m only into my first 100. And, we’re in discussions.. we want to go to these third-world countries and hand out some shoes.”